Proposal Paper: Simone Cappon

  1. Introduction

Picture this… it’s 2:10 pm on a school day. The students of East Lyme High School flood out of the building and make their way to their cars. Once you live through the treacherous adventure of pulling out of your spot in the junior lot, it is time to take on the exit of the parking lot. Student cars form a long queue while waiting to turn right or left onto Boston Post road, and drivers from the senior lot attempt to merge into the long line of cars. Twenty minutes later you get out of the parking lot and emerge onto Boston Post Road. The same experience is happening at the Chesterfield road entrance, but on that side, there are parents, buses, and students trying to emerge from the parking lot. The entrances and exits to East Lyme High School are a safety hazard for students, staff, and parents but it also greatly affects other members of our community. The high school entrances and exits create traffic on Boston Post Road, Chesterfield Road, and through the Flanders Four Corners. To eliminate the safety concerns and traffic problems, I propose that the Town of East Lyme install traffic lights at the two entrances of the high school.   

  1. Literary Review 

East Lyme High School does not appear to be the only school facing the issue of chaotic entrances and exits. Schools throughout the country are experiencing the hazardous conditions of school traffic. But, a high school in Kansas seems to have solved this problem with the installation of a traffic light at their entrance. According to an article from The Joplin Globe, “It [the traffic light] brings a lot of relief towards the whole situation of exiting the parking lot. It helps with traffic in general through the town as well” ( It appears that a traffic light system has been extremely beneficial in combating traffic problems at this high school in Kansas. Although traffic patterns will vary at different schools, a stoplight will most certainly eliminate some of the hazardous conditions that drivers face every day. There are many logistics to consider when undergoing such a project, such as a price, government approval, and the time frame of the light. Schools around the country have taken different approaches to reach the same goal.    

  • Baxter Springs High School in Kansas used its community as a resource to raise funds for the project. The school district asked the public for donations and received sizable amounts of money to offset the cost of the project. This approach allows community members to become involved in a project that would increase the safety of students and the overall public. (  
  • In Littleton, Massachusetts voters approved a Capital Article which allowed for spending a $183,000 traffic light for their High School. Town government spending would be the most feasible plan for East Lyme, but it runs the risk of controversy among voters. I believe that the plan would get approved by East Lyme voters, but there will most likely be disagreements. If the traffic plan is anything like the recent vote to move the police department in town, there will be turmoil and controversy among community members. (   
  • At Haddam- Killingworth middle school in Connecticut,  a traffic light was installed after a crash occurred. Although the middle school does not involve new student drivers, the goal is to provide a safe driving environment for everyone. Town officials in Haddam-Killingworth lobbied state party leaders to fund the traffic light. The town officials were successful in persuading the state to pay for a traffic light. The town refused to approve the traffic light until either the school or the state paid for the project (Hartford Courant). 

Traffic lights help to combat the hazardous conditions in school parking lots. In my proposal, I want to include components of all three schools’ plans to secure a traffic light that will create a safe driving environment. 

  1. Proposal 

To solve the safety problem in the East Lyme high school parking lot, I propose that stop lights be installed at the Boston Post Road entrance and the Chesterfield Road entrance (reference Appendix A for a precise location of the proposed light). The new stop lights would create less congestion during dismissal/ arrival times, along with increasing the safety of new drivers, staff, and parents. Many steps must be taken to see a traffic light be installed. 

  1. The idea must be brought to the attention of East Lymes Legal Traffic Authority and First Selectman, then it must be approved by the state.  
    •  According to the primary step to begin the process on a stoplight is to bring the proposal to the town’s legal traffic authority. The legal traffic authority in East Lyme is Police Chief, Micheal Finkelstein. Once brought to his attention, he will send the proposal to the State Traffic Commission and the Department of Traffic Engineering.  First Selectman, Kevin Seery, informed me that the state must approve the traffic lights, especially since they will be on state roads. The First Selectman also has the ability to request the light. 
  2. A state survey
    • Once the Town of East Lyme requests a light, the state will send a team to survey the area. The town must approve the location of the light for the installation process to begin. 
  3.  Funding is a potential issue in this proposal. 
  • While the state needs to approve the installation of the light, the Town of East Lyme will most likely bear the complete cost. If the state deems that the light is essential to road safety, then there is a possibility that the state will cover the cost. Most likely the town will have to pay approximately 100,000 per light.   

4. Production timeline 

  • Once the project and funding are approved by the state and town, I propose that the light be installed during the summer months. This will allow students to start the year with a new traffic system, instead of having to adapt to it during the course of the school year. Mr. Seery informed me that the traffic light would not be a part of this year’s budget plan. He said that the earliest that the town could consider this project would be next fiscal year (July 1). There is no way to know how long the approval process will take, as the crosswalk in front of the school’s main entrance took approximately 3 years to get approved by the state. 

5. Hours of operation 

  • It would not be feasible for the traffic light to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no need for the traffic light to run outside of school hours, or even outside of arrival and dismissal times. It is also imperative that the elementary school schedule is considered due to the number of parents that drop off their children. Therefore, I propose that the traffic lights would only be operating during the hours of 7:00- 9:30 AM and 2:00- 4:00 PM Monday through Friday. During the off-hours, the light would flash yellow to signal caution. 

IV. Justification 

There needs to be a stoplight at the Boston Post and Chesterfield Road entrances to East Lyme High School. The safety of drivers and pedestrians is the most important concern that the light would help resolve. But, it would also help combat the congestion in the parking lots and roads during dismissal and arrival times. Dismissal at the high school is a high hazard time that puts not only students in danger but parents and staff as well. 

New student drivers have to navigate the treacherous parking lot and school entrances which makes safety concerns even more prevalent. 79%  percent of student drivers surveyed at East Lyme high school (Appendix C) feel that the exits and entrances are a safety concern for drivers. From my survey (Appendix B) it is clear that a majority of students feel unsafe due to driving conditions, and I believe that a stoplight will help to alleviate much of the safety concerns. The main safety concerns seem to be more severe during dismissal. In a survey conducted, students  rated the safety of the exits during dismissal and arrival times on a scale of 1-10. More students rated the dismissal times as 7, 8, and 9 (meaning more dangerous) than arrival time (Appendix D). 

Through my survey students have voiced many concerns regarding the safety of the high school entrances. 

  • One student stated that “The congestion is very bad, I feel unsafe leaving school every day with the traffic, it can be very stressful for new drivers”. Students should not feel unsafe due to traffic patterns at our school, but the reality is that many do. 
  • Another student stated that “The left exit lane is a disaster: people will use the right lane and turn around in DG (Dollar General) to avoid it.” A traffic light would allow students to make a safe left turn out of the high school parking lot, rather than making unnecessary u-turns in the dollar general parking lot. 
  • “People speeding because they try to beat the buses out and general congestion” Students speed through the parking lot to try and get out of the exits before the buses. This is a large reason for accidents in the parking lot, and could potentially be avoided if there was a traffic light that speeds up the exit process even if students get stuck behind buses. 

Along with concern for driver safety, there is a larger concern for pedestrians. The first selectman, Kevin Seery, said during my interview that his biggest concern is pedestrian safety rather than the backup of cars (Appendix E).  Students are often seen walking from the high school to shopping areas or home from school. While we have lit up cross walk at the main entrance of the high school, many drivers still speed through the area without stopping or do not realize students are attempting to cross the road. The pedestrian problem is even worse on Boston Post Road. There is a crosswalk past Flanders school that many students use to cross the road. The issue is that the majority of the time cars do not stop for pedestrians trying to cross the street. It is very challenging for drivers to see pedestrians that are trying to cross and speed past before they can stop. 

Dismissal and arrival times at the High School come with unavoidable traffic congestion. 100% of students surveyed stated that they experience congestion at the entrances/ exits of the school, and 62% of those students say that there is congestion at both arrival and dismissal times. (Appendix F). At 7:30 Boston Post Road becomes backed up due to students attempting to turn left into the high school entrance. It is also important to remember that students are only allowed to enter the school from the Boston Post entrance in the mornings. There is an influx of vehicles entering the school which not only affects student drivers, but regular community members trying to commute in the mornings. The main congestion issue occurs at the dismissal time, 2:10 PM.

Students surveyed gave insight into why the exits are congested at the end of the day. 

  • “Whenever I try to leave there’s always someone who sits at the stop sign for like 2 minutes before getting the nerve to turn left.”  Once again, the left turn lane onto Boston Post Road is causing problems with traffic. The installation of a traffic light would allow for a more efficient exit system for drivers turning left out of the Boston Post Road exit. 
  • “When I turn left, I can’t really see incoming cars because the car on my right is blocking it.” 
  • “There are way too many cars trying to zip out of the exit by the fire station. it’s so hard to make a left there at 2:10”

An extremely popular complaint that backs up the roads and parking lot at the end of the day is the left turn lane at the Boston Post Road exit. A traffic signal that is operating during dismissal and arrival times could easily combat this issue and improve driver safety and create a more efficient traffic pattern for students and other community members. 

The First Selectman, Kevin Seery, has noticed many of the safety and backup concerns. He agrees that the entrances and exits of the high school are oftentimes dangerous and has received many complaints regarding safety and congestion during dismissal times. In an interview that I conducted, Mr. Seery stated that “at the right time of day” a traffic light would be helpful to combat the issues with traffic at the entrances to the high school. He believes that a light that could run at specific times during the day would be extremely beneficial (Appendix G). 

V. Conclusion 

The entrances and exits to East Lyme High School are extreme safety concerns. The Town of East Lyme needs to add stop lights to both the Chesterfield and Boston Post entrances. The light will provide an extra safety measure for pedestrians and drivers along with alleviating much of the congestion that occurs at 2:10. The traffic lights must be approved by the state of Connecticut and they will determine which party will bear the cost. The new traffic lights would be in operation during the high school arrival and dismissal times but could be a caution light for pedestrian crossings at all other times. The First Selectman, Kevin Seery, believes that this is a good idea along with all of the students surveyed at East Lyme High School.  The only negative to this plan would be the financial aspect of installing two traffic lights. Besides this factor, there are no other negatives. Therefore, the process to get traffic lights installed at both entrances of East Lyme High School should start as soon as possible.