School Looks to Reroute Traffic

October 27, 2006 -- Posted at 6:42 P.M. CDT

NEWPORT, AR -- It's been an issue for a number of years...traffic and the Newport School district.  Now the school is pushing to close down a major road through the city in order to make sure students are safe during the school day.

At first glance Wilkerson Avenue is just like any other in the town of Newport.

"It's a heavily traveled avenue through our city and it's one of three ways that people get from one side to the other," said Newport superintendent Ronny Brown.

However Wilkerson runs directly down the middle of the Newport School District.

"In the interest of the safety of our kids we are requesting that the city council close the street during school hours," said Brown.

While Brown said the number of cars that roll through the campus isn't that large, it just takes one car and one student walking to class.

"A lot of these kids have classes that makes them cross the street and in order to attend those classes and we have kids from Albright Elementary that are forced to cross the street also," said Brown.

In addition, Brown feels closing the street would make a more secure campus, "The safety factor of not having intruders at our campus, making it more difficult for someone to have contact with our students."

Since the street would not be closed 24-7, several plans are on the table to cut down on this residential traffic.

"There are the cross arm barriers made of metal or wood and then there are Velcro barriers that some districts use," said Brown.

The schools plan would be to have two barriers put up to keep traffic out during the day.  The barriers would be made out of a Velcro material so that emergency vehicles could get in when they needed to and other traffic would be kept out. However, Newport city bylaws state any changes in traffic patterns fall under the jurisdiction of the police department.

According to Newport Police Chief Michael Scudder, his recommendation to the city council will be to install raised speed humps to slow down necessary traffic and hopefully deter all other vehicles.  If the city's decided to close Wilkerson Avenue, it would be from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on school days.