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Jan 27,1006

Portland school district reports no problems with LRT line

By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter

Get involved in the planning and let schools know you're on top of the situation.

Those were the two main tips offered to School District 43 by the Portland Public School District, which also grappled with safety issues surrounding the implementation of a light-rail transit system near schools.

After hearing a delegation from TransLink officials earlier in the month about the benefits of the light-rail system and possible Evergreen Line station locations in Port Moody and Coquitlam, trustees asked staff to poll school officials in Portland about their experiences two years ago.

Secretary-treasurer Lorcan O'Melinn's report to trustees outlined the key issues the Portland Public School District encountered in 2004, when a light-rail rapid transit system was put in place.

According to the report, three schools were located adjacent to or near the new light-rail transit line, including an elementary school one block away and an elementary and middle school bordering the street where transit was placed.

Both schools on the line's border had chain link fences along the street that faced transit; one with an opening to the street and the other with a gate to the street.

"Principals were concerned that they would have strangers hanging around or cutting across school grounds," the report stated.

"As a result, the district closed off the opening and the gate. This forced students to walk approximately a block to get to the transit areas.

"This resolved the concerns the principals raised."

The report also stated that one of the schools was located on a major road that narrowed to two lanes from four. While initial concerns of increased traffic congestion were raised, the report stated, that "anecdotally, traffic has decreased."

Portland's planning committee also accommodated a request to extend a stop island to a crosswalk so that students could wait on the island more safely and cross the road at the crosswalk.

"Because of the size of the island, there is sufficient room for the students to congregate and wait," the report stated.

Since the line was built two years ago, Portland school officials have noticed middle school students and some elementary students using rapid transit to get to and from school. They have had no concerns about safety.

"Since the LRT was built, approximately two years ago, the manager of health and safety has received no complaints from the principals of the schools involved, or the parents," the report stated.

School trustees decided Tuesday night to delay a meeting with TransLink to address their concerns about the proposed light-rail transit system near schools until they've discussed the matter during Port Moody and Coquitlam city liaison meetings, which are set for the end of the month.

The meeting between District 43 and TransLink would also include trustees, parent advisory council presidents, administrators from the schools along the proposed Evergreen Line, Block Watch representatives and police liaison members.

published on 01/27/2006

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