The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Randy James, a Deer Ridge Resident in Brentwood and a teacher at Heritage High School
I am a Deer Ridge resident, who also happens to teach at Heritage/Adams for the past 13 years. The issue, in my opinion, with the lack of a loop road for American Avenue has less to do with traffic management and more to do with safety. The amount of time to drive from my home, slightly over a mile from Heritage, has increased over the past 13 years, but is manageable from my perspective. What isn’t manageable, under current circumstances, is the safety of students and drivers in this area.
There have been multiple students injured over the years both walking and biking to or from school. There continues to be accidents on Balfour Road, especially on the west side, just past the shopping center parking lot. The question is not if something fatal will happen, it is when it will happen.
I’ve had a few white knuckle experiences in my driving life:
- At age 17 my mother made me drive in a driving snowstorm on Interstate 80 near Truckee (from her perspective to ensure I knew how to manage driving in the snow in the future).
- Two years ago, driving in tule fog just this side of the Grapevine on Hwy 5 for 80 miles
- And now, the past two years of daily driving to Adams/Heritage. It was not always like this. The increase in student population along with where the drivers are coming from have contributed to an increasingly dangerous area. The combination of student drivers (those 16-18) along with impatient, selfish or unaware adult drivers in the school area is putting safe drivers and pedestrians in the area in harm’s way.
There are both constants and variables in this drive. Constants, such as Heritage has over 2,700 students and Adams has upwards of 1,100, for schools that were originally built for 1,800 (Heritage) and 800 (Adams), therefore the infrastructure was built for 2,600 students, not 4,000. The student drivers, approximately 1350 have been driving between 0 and 24 months along with parent/guardian drivers, school and public transit and teachers are all vying for the space to get up American Avenue. The variables include – the number of drivers driving east bound on Balfour has increased and will continue to increase as more houses are built outside of Brentwood city limits, but within the school district boundaries and the weather, for obvious reasons, because when the weather becomes cold and/or rainy during this time the number of drivers significantly increases.
Balfour – The last minute lane changes (unsafe and illegal), across 1 or even 2 lanes of traffic to “Get into” the turn lanes near the entrance to Shadow Lakes parking lot, has been mitigated (somewhat) with the city putting in lane divider markers to prevent this. However, drivers still continue to either disregard by running over the markers or two block one or both lanes of westbound Balfour as they failed to get in the line early or simply wait until the last moment and cut in front of the drivers that did do the correct thing. Once again, yesterday observed 3 vehicles who did not choose to get over into turn lanes and proceed to block all lanes on westbound Balfour in order to wait for the light to turn green.
Unsafe lane changes on west bound Balfour past West Country Club/Foothill, including those drivers who choose to drive past American and make an illegal U turn on Balfour across double yellow lines to approach from the east side.
My all-time favorite though is the west bound driver who has failed to make it into one of the left turn lanes to head up American. They wait at the light for the green and instead of going straight, as that is the directional lane they are in, they turn left (once again, illegally) to go up the hill and thus endanger the other vehicles turning left, the students that have just crossed the street and the crossing guard. This has taken place multiple times over the years, however I’ve been able to witness this 4 times this school year, including yesterday.
For anyone to say that this is not an issue is naive or blind. The reality, if there was a loop is it would provide options for drivers. For those traveling eastbound on Balfour (this morning in a 5 minute window I watched 27 vehicles run right coming from Deer Valley), the vast majority would turn right thus avoiding the Balfour/American intersection. The drivers coming from Shadow Lakes would have an option to turn right onto Balfour and then left onto the loop road. The drivers coming down Balfour westbound would be able to choose to get into the turn lanes, left on American or proceed down Balfour and turn left onto the loop road. The loop road option would eliminate many of the aforementioned issues and provide a significantly safer driving option.
To make things clear I have spoken with multiple police officers about these issues, albeit none above the rank of sergeant. Simply, there are only a few available traffic officers in the city of Brentwood. The few days in which there are multiple police in the area or only effective for a short period of time. In addition, the more recent map/traffic phone apps often warn drivers of police presence in the area.
I have children that attend both Adams and Heritage and unfortunately will not allow them near the Balfour-American intersection. This is not a risk I am willing to take with my children, putting them into an inherently dangerous situation.
For those that attend these schools or will, I hope you will take a long look at Measure L. For those that are not affected by this, I will ask you this, would you place your children or grandchildren into an inherently dangerous situation on a daily (school day) basis?
With the many student drivers, the multiple impatient adults driving in this area it is simply rolling the dice until someone, a student or others gets seriously injured or worse.
For the loop road and to create a safer environment in this area, I am voting YES on L.
Deer Ridge Resident
Heritage High School, Teacher