Paul Loveless’ response to my inquiry regarding the school speed zone surrounding the former Pioneer Middle School explains some of the thinking of the school district and town council. It does not address their authority to leave the school zone traffic signs in an area where no school exists. The buildings that once housed the Pioneer Middle School are nothing more than buildings now. The use of ‘school zone’ signage to regulate traffic where there is no school appears to be an abuse of their authority and in violation of Washington state law, RCW 46.61.440, Maximum speed limit when passing school or playground crosswalks – Penalty, disposition of proceeds, which, in its second paragraph, states:
“(2) A county or incorporated city or town may create a school or playground speed zone on a highway bordering a marked school or playground, in which zone it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle at a speed in excess of twenty miles per hour. The school or playground speed zone may extend three hundred feet from the border of the school or playground property; however, the speed zone may only include area consistent with active school or playground use.”
The area surrounding the old Pioneer is no longer an “area consistent with active SCHOOL‚Ä¶use” since it’s no longer a school. If the ball field in this area is to be considered a “playground” then the surrounding area should be reconsidered, resized, and relabeled consistent with the restrictions surrounding other “playgrounds” in Steilacoom where drivers are not restricted to 20 mph from 7 AM to 9 PM every day.
Having children in three Steilacoom School District schools, I’m not aware of any school-sponsored activities involving students that occur at this site. If the athletic field is to be used then that use will be seasonal and the time of day can be governed by use of flashing lights attached to the sign poles like those used by surrounding cites & towns for restricting traffic in their school zones. Drivers should not be restricted 14 hours per day for periodic, seasonal use of a single field.
The current school zone surrounding the former Pioneer Middle School is inappropriate and overly restrictive because it represents the presence of a school and students that no longer exist and in so doing restricts drivers’ behavior 14 hours per day and demands double fines for any violations under Washington state law.
For what it’s worth, I’ve never received a ticket for speeding in a school zone and would have let this drop had I received a considered and genuine response from Mr. Loveless instead of his condescending one.
Editor’s Note: According to City Manager Paul Loveless the school zone signs surrounding the former Pioneer Middle School were removed October 1, 2008.
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