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Trio of schools get safety help

by: Cori Bolger, A newly installed sign and flashing light on Jean Road warns drivers to obey school zone laws outside of Waluga Junior High and Bryant Elementary schools. The sign is one of several installed by the city of Lake Oswego to improve pedestrian safety around

In an ongoing effort to improve pedestrian safety around local schools, the city of Lake Oswego has installed crosswalks, signs and flashing lights around Lakeridge High, Waluga Junior High and Bryant Elementary schools.

The safety measures were added after a number of community members expressed concern about student safety and contacted the city, which has the authority to install or remove school zones.

'The individuals requested that the city do something that would enhance safety and accessibly,' said Josh Thomas, citizen information officer for the city.

The city began in May to research areas with the most foot and automobile traffic in areas around Lakeridge, Waluga and Bryant.

Earlier this month, the city's maintenance department installed blinking yellow lights, freshly painted crosswalks and bold speed limit signs that now pepper the roads around the schools and give motorists an extra warning to slow down. The entire project cost $50,000, Thomas said.

'I love having those lights on because it gives people an extra reminder when they're around the kids,' said Waluga Vice Principal Dan Sterling.

Bryant Principal Erin Prince also said she is happy with the result.

Despite the 20 mph speed limit signs posted along Jean Road, speeding motorists driving in front of Waluga and Bryant posed a danger to children walking to and from school, she said.

'Crosswalks are always a pretty dangerous area for our crossing guards,' Prince said. 'They always have near-misses.'

Similar projects are being considered for school zones and crosswalks in other Lake Oswego neighborhoods, including outside Lake Grove Elementary School on Boones Ferry Road.

Pedestrian safety has become a topic of concern after a 14-year-old student darted into traffic along Country Club Road and was struck by a car in March of 2005.

At the urging of parents, the city installed an electronic speed limit with flashing lights to warn motorists to reduce their speed. Thomas said the addition 'seems to be working well.'

'You do have certain times of the day when you have a lot of activity around the schools,' said Superintendent Bill Korach. 'We're appreciative of the changes the city has made.'

One element of Oregon's school zone speed law will change for the next school year, when a ruling made by the 2005 Legislature will take effect July 1.

The revised law still requires drivers to slow to 20 mph in school zones where flashing lights and signs indicate children may be arriving at or leaving school.

But now, if a school zone has no flashing lights, the 20 mph speed limit will apply only from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when school is in session, rather than all day.

Although the added safety measures in Lake Oswego are meant to raise awareness, lower traffic speed and prevent accidents, Thomas noted that there's only so much the addition of a sign or light can do.

The rest lies in the probability that motorists will obey state law and students stick to walking in the marked crosswalk zones.

'We can put in the infrastructure, but if people don't use it, it won't help,' he added.