WALLA WALLA -- The Walla Walla Police Department is asking drivers for patience as construction near Walla Walla High School and Prospect Point Elementary continues.
The work, which will improve pedestrian conditions along Reser Road between Cottonwood Road and Fern Street, began this summer and won't be completed until about December, officials say. The start of the construction came just ahead of the start of a new school year. With Reser Road closed, more vehicles are traveling on Howard Street where it becomes Cottonwood, and causing backups where Howard and Abbott Road intersect.
Police Sgt. Dennis McKee is asking drivers to consider alternatives, either by carpooling or by taking a different route, to help clear congestion at Abbott and Howard in the mornings and afternoons, when a high volume of vehicles are dropping off and picking up children from Prospect Point.
McKee said police, the city and School District have heard complaints and concerns about the volume of vehicles backing up along Howard on school days. The intersection is managed by a four-way stop, which McKee said is working at filtering cars through, although slowly.
McKee said he spent Monday morning last week observing and photographing the intersection, starting shortly before 7 a.m. and ending just after 8:30 a.m. Although cars did in fact back up several deep, McKee said no car waited longer than about seven minutes to clear the intersection. Photographs taken of vehicles at the intersection every five minutes show cars starting to back up about 8:05 a.m., and the intersection not becoming clear again until 8:35 a.m.
For cars heading toward the city center, an alternative route could be heading south on Howard and turning right at Prospect Road, which runs west to Third Avenue.
McKee said the police department has been asked to place someone to physically wave cars through the intersection during the peak congestion times. But McKee said the conditions do not appear to warrant that.
School District spokesman Mark Higgins said similar backups are occurring at the intersection of Abbott and Fern by Wa-Hi, where a Walla Walla County Sheriff's deputy will flag cars through as necessary.
Higgins said the traffic situation will continue to be studied and monitored, and there may still be a need for better monitoring at Howard and Abbott.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.