Beaufort should get ahead on school traffic issues

As the city of Beaufort grapples with a traffic problem during drop-off and pick-up times at Beaufort Elementary School, it is important to remember this is the sort of problem the city has been asking for and a problem it is likely to encounter again soon in another part of town.

Beaufort Elementary expanded its Montessori program and absorbed some students displaced by the closing of Shell Point Elementary this school year. The result was a 100-student increase in enrollment and more traffic around the school.

That should be mostly good news.

After all, it wasn't long ago -- at least as recently as the 2007-08 school year -- that the bigger concern was a school sitting half-empty on the edge of an atrophied neighborhood.

At one point, the city made (premature) overtures to Riverview Charter School to relocate to the building along the Northwest Quadrant end of Bay Street -- even though it had no authority to make such an offer and does not own the building -- as a means of breathing life into the area.

With that in mind, it's worrisome that Beaufort is struggling with traffic that it should already have planned for. Granted, the problem is complicated by the fact the S.C. Department of Transportation owns the roads in the area and would need to approve remedies, such as making one-way a street that borders the school to the west.

When the problem was discussed at a recent meeting, Councilman Mike Sutton suggested the city "damn the torpedoes," by installing signs to make the street one-way without taking over ownership and without waiting for the state to approve the change.

Though the frustration is understandable -- those who live near the school are inconvenienced each week day, and children's safety is always a concern when the subject is traffic around a school -- Sutton's prescription probably would prove counter-productive.

The city needs to maintain a good working relationship with the state. It faces a similar traffic problem this fall, when Bridges Preparatory School opens in the Beaufort Boys & Girls Club building on Boundary Street. That road is even busier than the streets near Bay Street.

Perhaps the answer to the Beaufort Elementary problem is a change in traffic flow. Perhaps it is additional traffic signals. Or the solution might be volunteers or city police directing traffic during peak times.

Whatever the case, level heads are needed to arrive at a workable solution along Bay Street. Similarly, it is better to stem potential problems on Boundary Street with forethought than to make traffic there an afterthought.