A plan to build a traffic-calming roundabout on Grant Avenue near Parkview High School and its adjacent JFK Stadium has won the support of Springfield Public Schools.
Part of the city of Springfield’s sweeping Grant Avenue Parkway project, the new circular intersection will connect with Chrisman Drive on the south edge of Parkview’s campus. The plan will add a new entrance to the stadium parking lot.
“There is a lot of congested traffic on Grant Avenue. This will allow for the entrance and exit of our school buses as well as our students and parent drivers that come in from that direction, as well as our activities that go on at JFK Stadium ,” said Travis Shaw, the director of operations for the district.
“…It will allow the traffic to flow so much better there.”
The parkway project is a multi-use corridor development from the city’s downtown area to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium and Bass Pro Shop. It has a lot of moving parts and the roundabout is just one.
In an April 12 school board meeting, Shaw presented a request from the city to grant a permanent right-of-way easement at Parkview for the roundabout project to proceed and make improvements along the stretch of Grant Avenue that runs between the stadium and the high school.
“This will involve the district donating approximately half an acre of our property,” Shaw said.
The city also requested a temporary construction easement for the length of time it will take to create a new entrance and exit from Grant Avenue into the stadium parking lot, which will be accessible from the roundabout.
Additionally, the plan calls for relocating a parking lot on the west side of the Parkview campus, which runs along Grant Avenue.
“They will reconstruct that parking lot and actually bring it closer to our school building, which will be a positive for our school district,” Shaw said. “This construction will take place over the summer months.”
The school board voted 7-0 to approve the permanent and temporary easements.
Board member Kelly Byrne, a real estate investor and developer, asked why the district was giving, not selling, the property to the city for the project.
“You used the world ‘gifted.’ How did those negotiations happen? Why are we just giving it away,” asked Byrne, who voted to support the easement. “It sounds like we are maybe getting some benefit.”
Shaw said the district could have had the half-acre appraised and asked the city to pay but wanted to be “good partners” with the city in the project.
He said the addition of the roundabout, the new entrance to the stadium parking lot and the relocation of a student and staff parking lot closer to the school were all helpful to the district.
“All these things that they’re wanting to do with the Grant Avenue expansion are a huge benefit to the Parkview school community as well as all of the events that take place in that particular area,” Shaw said.
Shaw added later: “It’s a half an acre and there is obviously value to that but we felt the value for the school and the community and the district outweighed the small monetary amount.”
Board member Steve Makoski said the district appears to be gaining a lot, especially in terms of safety enhancements, by giving up a little property for the project.
Makoski said he knows the area and the traffic can be “pretty horrendous from time to time.”
In developing the plan, Shaw said city officials repeatedly met with Parkview and district leaders to get feedback on the concept, go over traffic congestion and safety concerns, and explore ways to improve how school buses exit the campus.
Buses currently enter Chrisman Drive from Campbell Avenue and exit on Grant Avenue, a two-lane roadway with a lot of traffic before and after the school day.
“If you think about a bus needing to get out on Grant from our property, trying to go left is almost impossible,” Shaw said. “Now that the roundabout would be there, they would get on the roundabout and they’re headed…south toward Bass Pro.”
Parkview is not the only school that will be impacted by the parkway plans.
The path will run along the west side of the Campbell Early Childhood Center and a few blocks east of the new Jarrett Middle School campus under construction on Portland Street.
The News-Leader reached out of the city about the rationale behind a roundabout at that location.
Leree Reese, public works project manager, said the overarching strategy behind the parkway is to create a route that safely brings together pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic.
Reese said the team behind the project felt a roundabout was a cost-efficient way to help with the congestion associated with school traffic and sporting events.
“Roundabouts are a very pedestrian and bicycle-friendly intersection type because they increase visibility and reduce the number of ‘conflict points’ where collisions can occur. Roundabouts also have the unique ability to slow traffic down while still keeping it moving,” Reece said.
“They also work well when you have multiple access points merging from a variety of directions and angles – streets, parking lots, trails and sidewalks.”
Asked the cost of the roundabout, Reece said that specific cost is difficult to separate out.
The city opted to go with a “design-build project method” instead of a traditional design-bid process. The biggest difference is that a single contractor oversees both design and construction. Typically, there are fewer change orders, which can add cost and delays to the project.
“We don’t have an estimated cost for the roundabout alone. The design-build contractor for the city provided an overall cost to design and construct the entire project, from Sunshine (Street) to downtown,” Reece said. “With design-build there isn’t a breakdown given for different parts of the project.”
More:City of Springfield selects GAP Collaborative to construct $26 million Grant Avenue Parkway project
The bulk of the funding for the parkway comes from the federal 2019 Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant award.
Reece said work near Parkview High School will start in late April or May with the “full closure” of Grant Avenue — between Ildereen and Meadowmere streets — as soon as the school year ends.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.