2010-09-23 / Front Page

New issues arise in school bus parking

By Phil Zahodiakin

Jamestown’s school buses will probably be parked at the North Kingstown Park ‘n’ Ride by the end of the month – even though discussions on a security fence for the buses have hit a snag.

The Park ‘n’ Ride is located at the intersection of Routes 138 and 1A. The fleet of eight buses serving on- and off-island routes has been parked at the former Town Hall at 44 Southwest Ave. for most of the year.

Because that property is up for sale, the location was only a temporary fix for a long-standing problem: Where to relocate the buses from the Lawn Avenue School when the fleet increased from eight to 10?

The increase, which does not reflect any additional service for Jamestown students, accommodates a route realignment mandated by the Statewide Student Transportation System.

When Jamestown failed to find a permanent Conanicut Island site for the expanded fleet, the school district asked the town to request state Dept. of Transportation permission to store the buses at the Park ‘n’ Ride.

After permission was granted, the district asked the town to request RIDOT permission for First Student, which runs the school bus fleet, to build a security fence for the buses. Permission for that request was granted, as well – but a problem has emerged.

“Our initial thought was that we would install temporary fencing for the area identified for bus parking, but the grade of the Park ‘n’ Ride is not appropriate for fencing in the area where the buses will be parked because water would run into that area and cause an ice problem during the winter,” First Student spokesperson Maureen Richmond told the Press.

“Currently,” she added, “we are in discussions with [North Kingstown] and the school district about parking the buses in a different area of the Park ‘n’ Ride, and a different area may not lend itself to fencing.”

First Student is also in discussions on such other issues as the distribution of keys to the padlock for the security fence – assuming there is one – along with portable toilet facilities and lighting for the drivers to perform their pre-trip inspections in the pre-dawn hours of winter.

“We’re working on ensuring that the lighting at the Park ‘n’ Ride is restored at appropriate times of the day,” Richmond said.

When asked if First Student would still put up portable toilet facilities at the Park ‘n’ Ride, even if the facilities are not enclosed by a fence, Richmond said, “We haven’t reached a decision on portable toilets, but the safety of our drivers is the top concern we’ll have as we’re making this determination.”

Although there are still many issues left to resolve, First Student, Richmond said, “will likely begin utilizing the Park ‘n’ Ride by the end of the month.”

In the meantime, the town of Jamestown has started painting parking stripes in the area of the Park ‘n’ Ride approved for bus parking, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the Press. He also said that the town – not the state – would handle the snow plowing in the area where the buses are parked because “a fenced area wouldn’t allow enough room for big snow plows, so we would send over a DPW pick-up truck with a plow blade.”

Keiser was unaware of the First Student concerns about potential ice problems in the area selected for bus parking, and could not comment on them.

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