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Several senior engineering students at Oregon Tech have taken on a senior design project that aims to provide the Klamath Falls City School board with a site plan detailing the safest route for kids to and from Ponderosa Middle School.

Jonathan Blout, Kurtis Pipkin and project manager Trevor Lundsten presented the proposed site plan to the board during its regular meeting, but members of the group also include Trevor Davis, Joslyn Stansfield and Jacob Shelton.

“This project has the ability to change the way students come and leave Ponderosa Middle School, and we’d like to be a part of that,” Lundsten told school board members.

“This project represents something that we could genuinely imput to help the youth of this town, and with that ability, help the students of Ponderosa Middle School,” he added.

Bus traffic

After detailed analysis of student dropoff, an element causing some congestion at the school are the buses, according to Pipkin.

Where the buses are making a right turn into the parking lot and vehicles are trying to make a left turn into the parking lot, Oregon Tech students found a conflict.

“Those two movements are not concurrent, you cannot do them at the same time,” Pipkin said.

“A passenger vehicle, it’d be fine. But with the buses, they’re simply too large.

“And to watch them try to make them make this left-hand turn when there is a queue of vehicles stationed along Main is extremely difficult because there is not a lot of clearance on this edge,” Pipkin added.

“There is some signage right there that the buses could potentially clip if they were to swing that corner too wide … rather than buses routing along Main and then down and then to Henderson, they would go down to Washburn and Crater Lake Parkway, take that exit and enter the bus barn facility and then navigate around and behind the facility.”

Parking changes

Additionally, engineering students are proposing changes to striping in the parking lot and surrounding area.

“How many of you have tried to park in one of these spots in the front?” Lunsten asked the audience, drawing laughter. “Do you drive a Mini Cooper? If the answers no, then you likely had some problems trying to pull into some of these parking spots.”

Lundsten said under the proposed site plan, parking spots would be angled, not perpendicular so that when proceeding in the parking lot, it’s easier to park.

He also suggests there’s enough space to create a system similar to an airport loading and unloading zone where there could be an inside lane and a right lane for student drop-off.

“One of the things that we would like to do and that we built into the plan, is that there will be signage posted along the parking lot that says, ‘Please pull forward,’” Lundsten said.

Improved sidewalks

Also being proposed in the site plan is a mid-block crosswalk to provide a safer route for students and improved sidewalks near the school for improved walkability.

Erin Cox, assistant professor of civil engineering, teaches the civil engineering course, and also has a sixth-grade student at Ponderosa Middle School. She emphasized that she and students select projects important to the community.

“As a mother of a sixth-grader, I recognize the need for some improvements in the traffic planning and the transportation engineering at Ponderosa Middle School, and so it became one of our senior projects. This particular group of students have taken it on in a way that has been really inspiring. They have a lot of incredible ideas, many of which could be implemented.

Cox said short-term solutions being proposed are “relatively low cost” and long-term solutions proposed would require more planning and budgetary requirements.

Cost, safety

Pipkin said the cost to implement all elements of the project is estimated at between $600,000 and $700,000, not including engineering costs.

“Safety’s the goal,” Lundsten said.

“But if we can make it more efficient along the way, that’s a great win for us.”

School board members took no action on the agenda item but showed interest in the concept. Board members were invited to attend the students’ final presentation on the project on Thursday, March 21 at Oregon Tech.

Board member Mike Moore shared appreciation for the proposal, and added that more concepts like the one proposed would be welcomed.

“Not only is this school a problem, Roosevelt has issues, Pelican has issues, Conger has issues,” Moore said, referencing for student drop-off and/or parking.

“I hope that we can piggyback on what you folks have done, and make some inroads to improve our city.”