Solutions to Westfield High School’s Parking Problems May Finally be at Hand
Friday, February 3, 2012 • 7:08am
WESTFIELD, NJ—New measures to improve the crowded street parking situation around Westfield High School may be implemented in time for the 2012-2013 school year, according to Councilman Keith Loughlin, who serves as vice-chairman of the town’s public safety, transportation and parking committee. Loughlin campaigned on the issue in 2009 and quickly worked to bring the subject to the forefront after he was sworn in in January 2010.
“It’s something that’s very important to me,” said Loughlin, who has lived in Ward 4 all his life and has watched the issue become more problematic year after year. He believes a solution would not only make the neighborhood safer; it would increase property values, as well.
Currently, students who drive to Westfield High School have no choice but to park on the street. The parking lot in the back of the school is reserved for faculty, while space at the front of the school that is owned by the New Jersey National Guard Armory is available only to faculty and visitors.
Crowded street parking has caused safety concerns for both pedestrians and drivers due to narrowed roadways and an inability to see oncoming vehicles, while traffic flow—especially during drop-off, pickup and game times—is often slowed to a crawl. Many who live on these blocks have complained of quality-of-life issues. If no action is taken, the situation is expected to become worse, as enrollment at the high school has grown steadily and is projected to continue growing for many years to come, according to Loughlin.
Now the town council, armed with suggestions by traffic safety consultant Gordon Meth, is working together with the board of education to find solutions that Loughlin hopes will “alleviate the intensity of the parking problem in the neighborhood.”
Although he can’t yet say which exact solutions the board, the council and the public will agree on together, “The end’s in sight. We’re in the final stages of unveiling the preliminary proposals to the public,” Loughlin said. Possibilities include working out a deal with the armory to use more of its parking as well as redesigning the school’s existing parking lot, perhaps adding bus lanes. One option Loughlin won’t endorse is telling students that they can’t drive to school.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the students who have earned a license to restrict their right to drive to school,” Loughlin said. “Our students are residents of this town, too.”
This is not the first time the town council and Westfield’s board of education have attempted to tackle the problem. “This has been a long-time issue for neighbors of the high school in particular,” Councilman David Haas told The Alternative Press. “I was on the town council in ’06 when an attempt was made to resolve the issue, only to have a board of ed/council agreement fall apart at the last minute, and I was vice-chair of the public safety committee in ’05 or ’06 tasked with finding a resolution by then-chair Sal Caruana. Three or four different plans were presented at the committee level, but every attempt to share the parking burden more fairly was shot down by two other council members.”
Loughlin, who has lived in Ward 4 all his life, is confident that this time will be different. “The board of education, I have to give them a lot of credit, and the mayor,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re going to come up with a plan that I believe residents will support.”