ALONG WITH MORNING GRIDLOCK CAUSED BY EASTWOOD ELEMENTARY
Mileground Road (US 119) at the intersection with WV 705 regularly gridlocks due to traffic backed up from the entrance/exit to Eastwood Elementary, in the midst of construction. There is no preventing the gridlock. The school creates it. Prior to the opening of the school and prior to construction, delays were commonplace but not gridlock. Now gridlock happens every morning and afternoon. The major commuter and commercial intersection is forced into gridlock to allow traffic into and out of Eastwood Elementary just up the road (WV 705). And all the traffic is frequently stopped by or forced to dodge giant backhoes and dump trucks and dirt movers and bulldozers, which regularly cross and work around the school drive and WV 705. Screeching ambulances going to and from the nearby hospitals also often freeze all vehicles.
And this morning: crash smash! a vehicle rear ended in the long queue of cars on the Mileground. Pop! Crunch! followed shortly by curses and obscenities. Just another pleasant scene by Eastwood Elementary: a school site that is totally illicit per regulations, state student safety Rules. The local Monongalia County Board of Education could not care less. Nor could the state Board of Education. Before all: it’s their wreck.
Three years ago to the day, one of our efforts in trying to stop the monster on the Mileground:
As long since noted:
IT WOULD ONLY GET WORSE
In ways both known and unknown – studied, predictable, and probable.
The Eastwood Elementary new school site violates the mandatory provisions of the Legislative Rule §126-172 and State Board Policy 6200, which the SBA administers. The safety of new school sites are specifically regulated by this doctrine:
126CSR172 – 0 – Title 126 – Legislative Rule – Board of Education – Series 172 – Handbook On Planning School Facilities (6200)
The Rule mandates as follows (bold and italics added):
202.06. For the safety of students, the site shall be located away from hazards and undesirable environments, such as:
a. […] arterial highways, heavily traveled streets, traffic and congestion
b. Noise, toxic gas escapes from […] odoriferous plants or industries
e. […] bulk storage plants for flammable liquid, and property zoned as industrial
f. Situations where a combination of factors such as those presented above could contribute to the possibility of human entrapment
The violations of these mandatory provisions have never been specifically contradicted by state and county education officials and agencies, because doing so would not be credible: the facts are uncontroversial.
The insoluble conditions of all the bold provisions in “a” and “f” currently exist at the site and will always exist. The “noise” provision of “b” currently and insolubly exists at the site. Bold provision “e” and the latter parts of bold provision “b” are impending at the site, or are seriously threatened, in the form of a large Sheetz gas station that has been schematically designed on the site border, close to the building itself. These are insoluble, clear violations. This is a highly unusual and hazardous site, additionally “environmentally” unstable (in regard to future toxic and otherwise dangerous commercial, industrial, and traffic development) and therefore negligently unknowable, even as the immediate site and area are projected to degrade in quality year-by-year, decade-by-decade. The SBA-grant-proposal alternate site – the current Woodburn Elementary schoolgrounds – is an extremely safe and environmentally stable residential location that is lawful and suitable in every way.
The multiple violations of Rule 6200 show the severe threats to student safety and health inherent in the Mileground site, including but not limited to the following:
1. Lethal threat and violation 1: an increased propensity for crashes involving students in cars and buses – according to a study based on police reports, the heavily-traveled arterial intersection in front of the school is one of the most dangerous intersections for crashes in the entire region, with crashes, some fatal, occurring at and around the intersection on a regular basis; this is one of the most heavily traveled and congested intersections in the entire region, slated by planners to become dramatically even more heavily traveled due in part to an impending highway expansion that will shift the intersection of the two arterial highways so close to the front of the school that the stunted school drive will empty directly into the intersection of two arterial highways, within a couple years of the school opening; future prioritized highway expansions include bringing additional truck route arterial highways into this intersection and immediate area by the school site; none of these highway and traffic conditions, by state Rule, may be located near new school sites, at all, let alone at or adjacent to the immediate front of such sites as part of their entrance and exit, let alone engulf the site as is the case with this Eastwood Mileground location;
2. Civil threat and violation 1: the extreme potential of enormous civil and criminal liability risks – on September 12, 2011, a four car crash on arterial route 705 by the Eastwood site sent three people to the hospital, and closed route 705, entrapping motorists for hours, as reported in the Dominion Post newspaper (this is nothing unusual; crashes there are a regular occurrence; a motorcyclist was killed there the previous year, and 21 year-old woman was killed one intersection away on route 705 in an April 2011 car crash); if a similar calamity involves Eastwood students in the arterial highways or their intersection adjacent to the school or near it, which are in clear violation of the mandatory state rules and other law, or if there are similar kinds of calamities, then the civil and criminal liability lawsuits could easily dwarf the total cost of building the school;
3. Lethal threat and violation 2: vehicle exhaust air pollution above urban background pollution levels – the scientifically and medically known heart and lung damage (to “sensitive receptors” (young children) who live or attend school in close proximity to high traffic roads and gas stations) causes elevated rates of asthma, bronchitis, flu, and other diseases: cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, leukemia, all potentially fatal; when the students are playing, exercising, or studying outside especially, there is no escaping the air polluted by the vehicle exhaust from the major heavily travelled highways engulfing the school site in close proximity – the scientific and medical studies on the illness-inducing and potentially lethal effects of near-proximity vehicle exhaust pollution are voluminous and clear;
4. Lethal threat and violation 3: traffic congestion “approaching gridlock” poisons and entraps students – recent studies find a) “rush hours” congestion about 6 hours per day (7-9 am, noon, and 2:30-6 pm) on the arterials engulfing the school site, b) nationally rated worst possible “levels of service” (congestion): “D” and “F” (“approaching gridlock”), and c) afternoon Mileground arterial traffic speeds dropping from 14.1 mph to 8.4 mph (average) and from 7.7 mph to 6.2 mph (rush hours) if the school is added to the Mileground, and average vehicular delay at the school-front arterial intersection doubling with the addition of the school, causing pollution, vehicle crash danger, and “entrapment” to be not only “possible,” or likely, but inevitable; The 2007 Environmental Defense Fund study “All Choked Up” states that “Congestion itself has an effect: Stop-and-go traffic releases as much as three times the pollution of free-flowing traffic.” The study notes:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in 2004: ‘Siting of school and childcare facilities should include consideration of proximity to roads with heavy traffic and other sources of air pollution. New schools should be located to avoid “hot spots” of localized pollution.’ In some places, government policy reflects this concern. For example, the science of impacts on children’s health motivated the state of California to prohibit [school sites] within 500 feet of [any heavily travelled] highway.”
The Eastwood Mileground new school site is a “hot spot” and multiple safety and health menace.
5. Lethal threat and violation 4: gas stations and vehicle repair shops increase the leukemia rate by 400% – in children living nearby, according to studies; Mileground commerce consists mainly of these disease-inducing vehicle repair shops and gas stations, including at least half a dozen vehicle repair shops within a few hundred meters of the site, and three gas stations also within a few hundred meters of the site, making an impending, school-site-bordering Sheetz gas station the fourth. This large gas station is schematically designed to be located immediately adjacent to the school site, close to the school building, likely sharing a school drive.
On October 25, 2010, the West Virginia state Superintendent of Schools, Steven Paine, issued a “Superintendent Interpretation,” regarding Policy 6200. This interpretation was unconnected to the Eastwood Mileground site and was requested by state Senator Evan H. Jenkins. In the Interpretation, state Superintendent Paine ruled that Policy 6200 contains mandates that must be adhered to especially where there is a “safety consideration.”
The Legislature in West Virginia Code §18-5-13 mandates that each “county board” of education is “subject to…the rules of the State Board,” including Rule 6200.
Also breached is Legislative Rule §126-42-7.6, “Assuring the Quality of Education…County Board of Education Responsibilities…Facilities”:
“County Board of Education Responsibilities. 7.6. Facilities. 7.6.1. County boards shall ensure that facilities meet the standards set forth in W. Va. 126CSR172, WVBE Policy 6200, Handbook on Planning School Facilities.”
The West Virginia Supreme Court precedent holds that:
“Of course, an agency must follow and apply its rules and regulations in existence at the time of agency action” (Appalachian Power v. State Tax Department of West Virginia; 1995).
The Eastwood Mileground site violates or ignores:
1) Legislative Rule §126-172 and Legisative Rule §126-42-7, 2) various overlapping state Codes passed by the West Virginia Legislature, 3) formal legal rulings by West Virginia state Superintendents, 4) the mandatory Rules of the State Board and SBA, 5) West Virginia Constitution educational mandates and rights to life and safety, 6) the general recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding school siting, 7) the best operative knowledge of myriad medical and science studies about the debilitating effects of “near-proximity vehicle exhaust pollution” upon schoolchildren, 8) the expertise of West Virginia University professors, and 9) the public will and various public rights, a public overwhelmingly opposed to having any school built on the congested, expensive Mileground site, which is an extremely, even radically, atypical site for a new school, in being so dangerous, unhealthy, and potentially lethal.