Lebanon planning commission: Emergency gate stays closed at LHS

Lebanon planning commission: Emergency gate stays closed at LHS (Image 1)

A proposal to fix traffic woes at a Wilson County school drew criticism and outrage Tuesday night.

During a regularly scheduled meeting, the Lebanon Planning Commission considered changes to current traffic flow around Lebanon High School. The proposal was made by Wilson County school officials following nearly two months of heavy congestion around the school's entrance, especially in the morning.

The newly built Lebanon High School located on South Hartmann Drive opened in August with a single drive to handle entry and exit.

The setup and the high volume of morning traffic has been a sore spot among parents, students and the neighboring community.

In August, an LHS parent showed Nashville News 2 pictures of her morning commute from South Hartmann Drive to the school's student drop-off area. It took nearly 25 minutes for her to travel the route that extends less than a mile.

At that time, the school system fell short of admitting a design flaw and made adjustments to the flow of traffic. The changes yielded inadequate results.

A traffic study revealed the number of drivers coming and going from campus was more than pre-construction calculations.

“The southbound right turn into the school and then the right turn out of the school back toward the interstate are about twice as high as we expected,” Gillian Fischbach, traffic engineer for the school system, told commissioners Tuesday night.

The miscalculation forced the district to ask for help from the local planning commission.

Through engineering and traffic consultants, the district suggested no-cost restriping at the school's driveway, creating two entering lanes and allowing more traffic onto campus more quickly.

“That way the southbound rights can turn into their lane, and the northbound lefts can turn into their lane,” Fischbach said.

A request was also made to open to a gate behind the high school that would lead drivers away from South Hartmann Drive and onto Hickory Ridge Road and through several neighborhoods.

Before the school was built, the Lebanon Planning Commission promised nearby homeowners the gate would be emergency access only.

It was opened earlier in the school year to allow traffic to exit. The one-time use sparked a heated discussion between Wilson County School Superintendent Mike Davis and Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen over use and safety. The gate has since been closed to regular school traffic.

Neither Superintendent Davis nor Chief Bowen were at Tuesday's meeting, but the proposal to use the gate as an exit for parents between 7:20 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. on school days prompted nearby homeowners to speak out.

“Please don't let 'em open that exit,” said Janice Phipps. “You made us a promise. Please don't break it.”

“The school agreed on the design of the one-in/one-out,” said David Gibbs, “and as far as I'm concerned, they need to live with it.”

Following public comment, commissioner voted unanimously for the two-lane entry and voted unanimously against opening the emergency access gate.

Traffic engineers will monitor the effectiveness of the two-lane entry from October 15 to the end of the year. They will go before the planning commission in January to report their findings.

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