School zone speed limits in Ortega not always obeyed

School zone speed limits in Ortega not always obeyed

Councilman Love responds to residents’ complaints

Eight o’clock on a school day morning last month found District 14 Councilman Jim Love surveying the traffic speeding through not one, but two, school zones along Baltic Street.
Love was responding to complaints about drivers that do not observe the twice-a-day school zone speeds for St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School and the Ortega Elementary School.
The enforcement times differ by about 15 minutes for the schools. Assistant Head of St. Mark’s Karen Lee noted that those times, when traffic must observe a 15 mph limit, are also when late-comers are breaking the rules. “Drivers coming off McGirts onto Ionic are in a hurry to drop off children in the morning or pick them up at the end of the school day,” she said. “Then, the break in the school zones causes drivers to speed up for a short stretch before having to slow down again. Sometimes they don’t slow down.”

Residents on McGirts Blvd. and Ionic Ave. have reported that two animals were killed and one child hit in the past year when motorists turned off McGirts onto Ionic, using that quiet little street as a shortcut to pick up children at after-school daycare at St. Mark’s.

Unobserving children and unwary animals are the most likely to encounter drivers who are, at best, simply preoccupied or, at worst, flagrantly disobedient of the law. While Love observed the morning traffic along Baltic Street, two children on bicycles attempted to cross without pausing to allow Lee, working as the morning crossing guard that day, to stop oncoming traffic. She quickly halted both the cyclists and an oncoming car.

Lee said, “We have already communicated (and will continue to do so) to our families about the importance of being aware of the residential areas as they approach and depart from our school. This is a message that all schools must handle proactively and with which we take very seriously.”

Councilman Love sent his observations to William Joyce, Chief of Engineering and Construction Management for the City of Jacksonville, to see what remedies could be put into place along Baltic and McGirts. One solution Love made is to simply extend the school zone from one end of Baltic at Ionic to the other at Princeton Avenue; drivers would have to observe the 15 mph limit for two-tenths of a mile without a break between the schools. Installing a flashing yellow light to catch the attention of drivers is another possibility as is erecting “Slow, Children” signs, while the last, and most unpopular, would be speed bumps.

“The problem with speed bumps is that no one likes them, especially during the hours when school is not in session, which is the majority of the time,” said Love.
The councilman had also proposed a roundabout at McGirts where it meets Corinthian and Manitou avenues, which will help slow down speed limit scofflaws.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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