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Tam Valley School Site Plan Renews Traffic Worries

Latest public discussion of modernization plans at Tam Valley Elementary School brings up familiar refrain over transportation and traffic flow.

The Mill Valley School District's $3.7 million modernization project for Tam Valley Elementary School got its latest unveiling Tuesday night, but the approximately 25 people that attended the meeting at the school primarily focused on the few hundred yards leading up to the school.

The design plans for the campus overhaul were displayed by Van Pelt Construction Services, which is overseeing design and construction of the project, but the public input was dominated by how the proposed changes will accommodate children and parents entering and exiting the 350 Bell Lane site by bicycle, foot or car.

"There is a growing movement in Tam Valley of parents getting their children to ride to school," said David Hoffman, director of planning for Marin County Bicycle Coalition. "What is the plan for folks coming down Bell Lane?"

The meeting was the latest in a series designed to solicit public input on several school campus redesigns funded by the $59.8 million Measure C bond approved by voters in November 2009. Approximately half of bond funds will be spent on a new Edna Maguire Elementary School campus while other campus facelifts will take place at Old Mill, Strawberry Point and Park elementary schools through 2013.

Designers noted an entrance sidewalk was widened from five to eight feet and additional bicycle parking was included based on previous public feedback, but they were limited on other changes due to funding and property line limitations.

Bicycle parking is expected to accommodate about a quarter of the nearly 500 current students, according to the design team.

Pete Norgaard of Van Pelt Construction Services said he was hopeful what was presented Tuesday would get the thumbs up from the Mill Valley School District Board of Trustees at their Sept. 14 meeting.

"We anticipate a recommendation from staff that (the board) approve the design as it stands," he said, noting the 11-week-long project was scheduled to begin June 13. "We need to get this project ready to bid for the spring."

Tuesday's audience was equal parts parents, Tam Valley neighbors and activists for county-affiliated causes. Requests were made to add crosswalks, elongated speed bumps and other measures to the Bell Lane entrance to the school for added safety precautions.

One parent praised other parts of the campus renovation, but described the situation of bicyclists going against drivers on the small section of Bell Lane between the school and the Enterprise Concourse intersection as "salmon going upstream."

Hoffman noted that Tam Valley was one of the first schools in the nation in 2000 to  become involved with the Safe Routes to School program.

"This (school) was a leader 10 years ago," he said. "You still have the opportunity to do what's best for bikes and pedestrians."

District and project proponents said they've been in discussion with county officials about the issue. Maureen Parton, aide to county Supervisor Charles McGlashan, said at Tuesday's meeting that it'd be difficult to get funding to address changes on that small strip of road anytime soon.

Linda Johnson, a member of the Tamalpais Community Services District board who lives near the school, said crosswalks are being planned near the school. She also said the district provides parking at its nearby lot to encourage more parents to walk with their children to and from school.

"What is it going to take to get people out of their cars," Johnson said. "We need to make it safer for walkers and bikers."

Norgaard said the design team's goal over the past few months was to listen to community input. He also said the project was currently over budget.

"We can continue to explore the comments we heard this evening," he said.

Kathy Mcleod September 09, 2010 at 08:22 PM
I was aware of many of the issues brought up at the meeting and made it a point to stay involved. I am very glad that the county is going to do what they can to make improvements for cycling into school. One odd comment that I hadn't heard a thing about was a cross walk coming on Bell Lane across from the TCSD office. I would hope that if the county was paying for this mid street crosswalk that they would see the wisdom in putting a crosswalk instead where people are already trying to cross, at the beginning of the school to get to the bike racks.
Gene Spake September 09, 2010 at 10:12 PM
What is amazing to me is that all the discussion is about getting to and from and making a big school even bigger. No discussion about the fact that quality education is usually found in smaller schools with small classroom size and better teacher- pupil ratios! Instead M.V. school district, having closed three of its neighborhood schools (and retrieved one), is, as predicted prior to these losses, short of classroom space and pursuing mega-size schools! It is far more important to base financial decisions on what really contributes to quality education than focusing on parking problems stemming from oversize schools for very young children!
Kathy Mcleod September 10, 2010 at 02:11 AM
Measure C is intended specifically for maintenance and safety. Addressing the issue of congestion, and being able to walk or bike safely into school is part of this funding package with this measure C and is something that is long overdue. All issues on the school ground were covered in the two previous public hearings. This was the last section to be talked about. Other measures recently passed and funded teacher- pupil ratio, thankfully. Hopefully Tam Valley won't be so committed to only the car for transportation. Making this last section of Bell Lane accessible by bikes will change the way kids get to school.
betty ross April 19, 2011 at 05:02 AM
Betty Ross I live in Tam Valley and have tryed to get a speed bump on our street, the cars come racing down Spruce Street and it seems that the more expensive the car is the faster they travel down Spruce Street. I asked one woman driving her sport Mercedes to slow down, her answer to me was that she knew all the police officer in the area. I have seen this women driving on our street going about 45 mph just to wait at the stop sign at Shorline Hwy. We have lost 3 cats to fast moving cars. A child has been hit. Our residents have gotten together to get a speed bump or hump and the County has refused us. We are trying to get cars to slow down and if I was to drive like this women on her street she would call her Officers friends. I also think the Officers would give this women a speeding ticket if they saw her driving habits. This is deadly, she should be ashamed of herself being a friend to officers. I would not want her to be my friend Thank you for your time.
Kathy Mcleod April 19, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Betty, I have heard other people talk about the speeds through our neighborhood. Flamingo, Northern, Pine Hill, Loring are like raceways. It is a shame. Certain streets could benefit from some sort of traffic calming. Spruce is such a short street and it amazes me that anyone would want to use up so much gas to get up speed only to have to stop at the stop seconds later at the stop sign. Who in the world are these people? Is it in the morning while kids are going to school? Afternoon? Maybe a patrol car would help. Speed humps... hmmm? I wish we could plant a tree in the middle of the road or something like that or narrow the street with a bike lane on each side. Surely something creative first before anything drastic. One of my friends made a big sign with a description of the car with an embarrassing message that only his wife could have known exactly who the sign was referring to. It took care of the problem in her neighborhood.

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