A four-car pileup Friday may have been what was necessary to get motorists to stop parking on North Chancery Street while waiting to pick up children after school at Bobby Ray Elementary.
Motorists have long been in the habit of parking in the right lane of North Chancery Street to wait for the gate at Bobby Ray to open at 2 p.m. Sometimes the line will extend down the street.
School doesn’t end until 2:45 p.m. and school officials want to keep the gate closed until 2 p.m. for security reasons. They say arriving 45 minutes early should provide plenty of leeway for those picking up students.
But some parents think otherwise and have been arriving as early as 1:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the gate opens. The result is one lane of traffic on one of the busiest streets in McMinnville gets blocked by cars waiting to turn into Bobby Ray. This is especially problematic to businesses located on that stretch.
“Our customers can't get in or out, and we can't get in or out,” said Kristin Griffith, an employee at Tennessee Credit. “But my main concern is safety. People don’t expect to come up on cars sitting still in the middle of the street. We constantly hear people slamming on their brakes. It makes me really nervous. I don’t want anybody to get hurt.”
There was a four-car pileup Friday afternoon where motorists waiting in line were smashed from behind. That was followed by several posts on social media questioning why parents need to arrive so early and impede traffic.
The result was there were no cars parked on North Chancery Street waiting for the gates to open Monday. That’s the perfect solution, according to Director of Schools Bobby Cox.
However, two cars were briefly parked outside the gate before it opened Tuesday, causing a road hazard and clogging traffic.
“My suggestion would be to wait until 2 p.m. to arrive,” said Cox. “That’s when the gate opens and that’s plenty of time. I urge parents not to line up before that time.”
Police Chief Bryan Denton said technically it’s not illegal to park on a city street provided one lane of travel remains open. He said the four-car accident is concerning, but pointed out it’s been the only accident at that spot in the two years Bobby Ray has used that entrance for student pickup.
“There’s no easy answer when you have 300 to 500 vehicles trying to get in and out of one place at the same time,” said Denton. “It’s not an ideal situation, but there’s not an ideal situation at any one of our schools. Traffic backs up everywhere.”
Before making the change two years ago, students had previously been picked up at the Bobby Ray loop. However, that blocked traffic in both lanes of Towles Avenue and congestion was so bad it backed up to North Chancery Street.