The Deal with Sehome’s New Parking

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Plan for the Future: The plans for the new parking lot show off the compact new arrangement for staff and student parking. Bill McDonald Parkway is the top right border of the lots, while the new building makes up the bottom edge.

In all seriousness, the situation surrounding the school parking lots has been a topic for discussion among staff and student drivers in recent weeks. It hasn’t been made clear to most what will happen in terms of parking but it will be a process for sure.

Peggy Fogarty, the Campus Security Monitor, made her confidence in the amount of parking spaces remaining the same clear, but said that where the spots will be may vary during the transition.

“What I think they’re going to do is just take the gym down and make it into more parking,” Fogarty said. “We’ve always had plenty of vehicle parking.”

While this is not the officially announced plan, Fogarty said that she believed that all would go well during the move. According to her, the senior parking lot will be the last area that will be removed and the staff will park in a plot behind the new building in order to open more spots for students.

The larger problem that will have to be dealt with is the traffic getting in and out of the parking lots. Currently, it takes approximately 15 minutes for the bulk of the traffic to clear out of the parking lots, according to a study conducted by The Rising Tide. Luckily, the parking shifts during the beginning of second semester will, if anything, lessen the traffic.

Old McDonald Had a Road: This picture from an unspecified before the construction of Sehome’s original building shows the curve of Bill McDonald Parkway where Sehome (and the parking lots) are now.

At semester break the parking in front of the school will be closed of to the public and opened to Dawson Construction vehicles. During this time (as demolition begins) the busses will be dropping students off behind the new school, where the track field used to be, off of Taylor St.

A path will be opened from the new bus unloading area to the main entrance of new building. Students will be able to use this path to get to school after the front of the old school is fenced off.

One of the largest contributors to this issue is the conflict between Sehome’s schedule and the Western Washington University class schedule.

According to the WWU schedule, there are several dozen classes throughout the week that get out at 2:50pm. This puts them right on schedule to be reaching their cars in time to drive right past Sehome as the high school gets out of class. (Taking about 10 minutes walking and a minute or two driving, according to research from The Rising Tide.)

The Modern Take: The paved, two-laned Bill McDonald Parkway sits next to Sehome’s senior lot now, with the rest of the school just out of frame.

The Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) schedule shows that there are also buses that pass through to pick up and drop off college students at the same time, further jamming traffic as they pause at the four stops along Bill McDonald Parkway.

The question remains: At the end of the day (literally and metaphorically), will these issues continue to slow entrances and exits from Sehome’s new campus?

The answer: we’ll see. The plans for the new school show that despite a new set of parking lots, there won’t be any major changes to the entrances and exits.

When asked about any adaptations being made to account for the traffic on Bill McDonald Pkwy., Principal Michelle Kuss-Cybula said it is something that will have to be lived with.

“The problem is that a school can’t go put in a stop sign or a light in a public thoroughfare,” Kuss-Cybula said.

She added that the conflicts on Bill McDonald Pkwy. with other traffic source are also hard to address. The high school has limited influence on the affairs of WWU and the WTA busses, and any change in the connections to the Pkwy. becomes a difficult tangle of permits, sightlines, and access.