Town and school district officials are expected to unveil draft recommendations for the improvement of the parking and traffic situation around Westfield High School during a forum on Thursday night.
The second town hall meeting, following the first in March, will feature town traffic safety consultant Gordon Meth presenting recommendations based on data collected in the past several months, along with resident input. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in the WHS auditorium.
Councilman Keith Loughlin, who represents the neighborhood, said Meth and his staff have been studying traffic and parking patterns on the streets surrounding the high school in an effort to develop a draft plan. During the March forum, Meth said he would use the comments from neighborhood residents to help guide him in the planning process.
During the first town hall, residents expressed a series of concerns to Meth, Councilwoman Joann Neylan, the Council’s parking committee chairwoman, and Board of Education President Julia Walker regarding the situation in the neighborhood. Residents mostly focused on quality of life issues which they said have been caused by an increased amount of students parking in the neighborhood.
Among the issues residents outlined at the first forum were students speeding down residential streets, used condoms and alcohol bottles being left by students on front lawns, students smoking marijuana in parked cars before school, students running over mailboxes and students using chalk to draw inappropriate pictures on residential driveways before and after school. Residents also said the cars parked on the road have become a safety hazard by reducing streets to one lane and making it difficult to turn onto other roads and to exit driveways.
Residents also said the traffic back-ups around the high school have become larger in recent years, including along Dorian Road, Trinity Place and Rahway Avenue.
Among the proposals made by residents during the first meeting were to install a circular driveway in front of the high school to handle bus traffic, shifting bus traffic to the back parking lot of the high school and reducing traffic on Dorian Road. Residents also suggested bans on student parking on certain streets, opening the Armory to student parking and suspending the off site lunch program at the high school.
The Armory has been under consideration as a parking location for high school students for two years. Town officials, along with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), have been in discussions with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs over student use of the lot. Last year, the Board of Education said the Armory plan was dead due to high user fees the state military department was asking for use of the Armory, which would then be passed on to users. The BOE said a survey of WHS students and parents showed that they would only pay a small amount for parking at the Armory. Students said in interviews following the BOE's decision that they did not disagree with the action.
Loughlin said in the days following the BOE announcement that he would continue the work on the Armory parking option. He has indicated that discussions remain ongoing between the town and the state on the issue. Loughlin has made high school parking one of his top issues since his 2009 election.
Last year, the Town Council and Board of Education announced a partnership to discuss high school parking issues, including the series of town hall meetings. During the first meeting, Walker and Neylan indicated that Meth would be holidng the June meeting and will likely be hosting another town hall meeting in the fall to discuss the issue. Thursday's meeting will gather information to help Meth develop a final plan.