Concept image of new Westpark Middle School, as viewed from the southwest (contributed by Berry Architecture).

School bus congestion will be eased, as part of Westpark Middle School development

Buses will pickup and drop-off students in a loop on school grounds

A new bus loop planned for Westpark Middle School grounds will remove school buses congestion from 55th Avenue, as part of the newly approved development.

Once the new Westpark Middle School opens in September 2019, school buses will be able pull off 55th Avenue and loop around a parking lot on the school grounds to stop and drop off or pickup students.

Although part of the bus loop must be constructed after the demolition of the old Westpark Middle School building in the fall of 2019 (since its footprint overlaps with the old school site), there will be enough room to create a temporary smaller bus loop as soon as the new school opens, said George Berry, of Berry Architecture.

The off-street bus loop was re-introduced to the project after many West Park neighbours complained that something more needed to be done to reduce traffic congestion in 55th Avenue.

Robyn Maddox, whose mother lives near the school, remains concerned that parents who drive their kids to school will still have to pull over on 55th Avenue for drop offs and pick-ups. “Fifty to 60 kids are dropped off by their parents on that street,” said Maddox, who believes the bus loop will solve only part of the traffic problem.

But Berry replied there will be plenty room along the street for parents to pull over once the school buses begin using the loop. He feels traffic will flow better.

Area resident Margaret Arnold told the Municipal Planning Commission on Wednesday that 57th Avenue is becoming a free parking lot for Red Deer College students who don’t want to pay parking fees in RDC lots. “It’s often difficult to get our of my driveway.”

Mayor Tara Veer suggested affected residents consult with city staff to see whether traffic volumes on 57th Avenue warrant getting restricted by permit-only parking zoning on that street.

The school development plan, which received conditional approval by MPC on Wednesday, includes a free-standing sign, 5.6 metres tall, which is over the city’s height requirements. But commission members were told it’s not out of proportion for the large, open site, and that Red Deer’s sign bylaws are out-dated and being reviewed by staff.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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