Chief William Watton of the University Police Department (UPD) recently received a petition with the signatures of 120 students who are tired of waiting in traffic every day. However, those students are going to have to keep waiting; despite the petition, a resolution to the traffic problems won’t be coming anytime soon.
Cassandra Mesa is a post-bachelor, multiple-subject teaching credential student, who graduated last June. Fed up with Highland Drive’s excessive daily traffic, Mesa decided to form a petition, requesting that somebody direct the traffic leaving parking lots H-12 and H-16 in the afternoon.
“I got 120 signatures from students parked, waiting in the line of cars trying to leave campus from the H-12 and H-16 parking lots,” Mesa said. “Everyone who signed the petition was very enthusiastic and hopeful that something would be done to rectify the traffic congestion. Although I was able to get over 100 signatures, there are many more people who this traffic affects.”
Mesa’s petition stated: “This spring quarter, there has been extreme traffic congestion at these intersections starting at 4 p.m. We greatly appreciate the traffic control at 8 a.m., and argue that it’s highly needed in the afternoon as well.”
Three weeks after submitting the petition, Mesa received a call from Watton.
“He said that it comes down to not having enough funds in their budget to pay their student workers to be out there for more than half an hour. It’s hard to believe that the campus police department can’t afford to pay less than $10 a day for traffic control in the afternoon. It would cost them only a little bit to fix a big problem, and yet they say nothing can be done.”
However, Watton said that the morning’s traffic issues are of a completely different nature. Mesa wants somebody to direct traffic in the afternoon so that cars can exit campus quickly and safely. In the morning, traffic is directed to keep oncoming cars from blocking U.S. Highway 1. Whereas the morning traffic is an issue of safety, Watton said that the afternoon problems are more of an inconvenience issue.
“How do we solve these issues when it’s more of an inconvenience problem, or possibly a scheduling issue, rather than a safety issue? If it were safety, we’d definitely be looking to do something,” Watton said. “I don’t know what that might be at this point, but it’s more of an inconvenience issue. And while we do want it to be convenient, we have to weigh those kind of things with availability, personnel, money and other things on campus too.”
Conversely, Mesa would argue that the afternoon traffic problems are definitely an issue of safety.
“I have personally witnessed reckless driving, with drivers passing the line of cars on the left to get off campus more quickly,” Mesa said. “Not having traffic control at this time in the afternoon is dangerous, with frustrated drivers driving recklessly and endangering other drivers as they turn onto Highland Drive.”
Watton agreed that the traffic problems need to be addressed at some point, just not now.
“While we understand that there is backup from time to time, that’s not the only place that the cars back up,” Watton said. “The other side of campus has problems of that nature also. The petition has been forwarded to our planning folks. From the master plan aspect, we’ll look at that and see what can be done in the future. There’s a lot of construction going on around campus right now too. There’ll be some changes when the construction ends, and hopefully that’ll alleviate some of the problem.”
Watton argued that there are traffic problems all over campus, not just where Mesa indicated. As a temporary solution, he suggests taking the bus or any other available form of alternative transportation.
“We’re aware of the problem,” Watton said. “While we understand that, it’s not necessarily a short-term mission that we can just quickly fix. It’s going to take some time to work those kind of things out and put things into place that will work long-term.”