Ottawa High School navigates first day with nearby bridge construction

School year started as well as it could, superintendent says, commending police for their help

Traffic moved smoothly for the first full day of school Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at Ottawa High School. Westbound traffic on Main Street was rerouted to Green Street.

Ottawa High School has been working with the Ottawa Police Department since late July to plan traffic flow to and from the school in regard to ongoing construction on the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

That careful planning paid off Tuesday, said Superintendent Michael Cushing.

The superintendent said the year started as well as it could, given the circumstances.

Student pickup and drop off are not allowed in front of Ottawa High School as the 2022-2023 school year started Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.

Ottawa police have issued and will continue to use more patrols around Ottawa High School as it enters its first few weeks of school.

Chief Brent Roalson said it’s going to take additional resources to assist with the traffic flow amid the construction taking place just a block west of the school on Route 23.

“We anticipate the biggest flow is going to be after school when people are trying to leave,” Roalson said. “It’s sporadic when they’re first getting there. There’s a delay between different vehicles, kids getting dropped off or going through the student line to walk from the parking lots. But at the end of the day when everyone’s released, that’s when heavy traffic is going to impact both the east side as well as the downtown until we get them cleared.”

The new plan makes changes from the old one: Students are now dropped off in the student parking lot to keep traffic off of Main Street and nobody picked up or dropped off in the west parking lot. The school also has created a bus lane.

“The other big component of the change is that there are certain periods during arrival and dismissal that traffic is restricted from going westbound on Main Street,” Cushing said. “This funnels everyone out to East Main Street to Green Street.”

From there, drivers will end up on Chicago Road and eventually U.S. 6.

Roalson said he anticipates the police will have to rely on this plan of having patrols along Chicago Road and U.S. 6 to alleviate traffic in the downtown.

“It’s all going to be a fluid plan and we’ll reevaluate in a week and get with the school and the Illinois Department of Transportation in addition to the contractors to make sure we’re meeting what we need and our expectations,” Roalson said.

The road construction along Route 23 and Veterans Memorial Bridge is expected to be completed by the fall and Roalson expects the police will have more patrols out to aid drivers navigating around it into October.

“I want to commend the great plan they put in place and for their assistance and collaboration,” Cushing said. “I can’t say enough about our school resource officers. They’ve just been outstanding directing traffic. We appreciate the cooperation and patience from drivers and the residents on the East Side, as well.”

Cushing said the first day of school, in general, had a sense of it being a very welcome return to normalcy even with the complications in the traffic.