Solar-powered school zone signs start up on Monday

On Monday, new solar powered school speed limit signs will kick in near Stevens Elementary and Miller Junior High as the latest efforts to increase awareness about children walking to school kicks into high gear.

Two of the high-tech signs have already been installed near Stevens Elementary and three signs have been installed near Miller Junior High, dropping speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph.

The new signs are computer programmable with each school controlling when the lights kick on and the speed lowers in an effort to adjust for when a school day ends earlier than scheduled.

Aberdeen sign engineer Scott Olsen applied for a grant to get the new signs. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission awarded the city $18,500, which was enough to cover all of the materials. The city supplied the labor to install the signs.

Aberdeen City Council President Kathi Hoder says she’s elated to hear the news.

“This is a long time coming,” Hoder said. “Parents have wanted this for years. Children had no protection and this gives people who are driving vehicles warning that kids are out there. We’re actually getting lights. How thrilling.”

Hoder made a big deal about the lack of school zone signs around Stevens Elementary in particular last fall. The area around Cushing Street was dedicated a school zone in October and the speed limit was dropped from 25 to 20 mph, posted between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., in the area from where Cushing connects with Southwest Boulevard until just past Dewey Street. With the new lighted signs, the school zone will only be in effect when the lights are flashing.

A couple side streets around Stevens and Miller Jr. High will keep the permanent school zone, even without the lights, Olsen said. One new street that will be reduced near Miller Jr. High will be Harriman, running east of Evans. That’s dropping to 20 mph.

“Our plan is to educate students and parents and then when the school year starts again, we’ll spend a few more weeks doing it all again,” Olsen said.