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'Beyond chaos': Parents say construction project leading to traffic nightmares at a Stockton high school

According to one parent, what was normally a 10-15 minute route has ballooned into a 45-minute commute.

STOCKTON, Calif. — Waiting for over a half hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a two-lane road is not how Stockton parent Renee Gray imagined she would spend her son Joshua’s first morning at Stockton’s Lincoln High School Tuesday.

“We were expecting the traffic commotion, but we weren't expecting how it was,” Gray said. “It was kind of beyond chaos.”

The source of the chaos, according to Gray and other parents, is a culvert construction project running underneath Alexandria Place. Alexandria Place, one of three streets intersecting at the front of Lincoln High School, has been closed to pedestrian and car traffic since the construction project began on May 31.

Fall classes for the Lincoln Unified School District, which operates both Lincoln High School and Sierra Middle School near the construction zone, resumed Tuesday.

“We just got an announcement on Facebook requesting that they recommend us to take this (detour) route, which was like a one-way route for all these parents to take,” Gray said. “There could have been better communication and planning on this.”

What Gray says is normally a 10-15 minute route from her home to the school has turned into a 45-minute commute, much of it spent fully stopped or at a crawl as nearly 2,800 students attempt to reach campus.

“The normal route that the school had provided us, that took us 45 minutes, just waiting in line,” Gray said. “The parents are frustrated and I'm pretty sure also the neighbors too, because of the traffic congestion in their neighborhoods, and especially where before they weren't getting the traffic from the school, now they're getting it because parents are taking different routes.”

RELATED: Locking the doors is Lincoln High School's solution to its tardy problem

The construction-fueled delays and detours forced some parents to let their students out while waiting in traffic, Gray says.

With students exiting cars while in the slow-moving line and bikers and pedestrians flooding detour routes, Carolyn King, who lives near the high school fears it could only be a matter of time before an accident happens.

“It is really a mess and very dangerous,” King said. “There's no policing, the kids are darting in and out of cars, because of the traffic. There's road construction cones, so they're trying to get through that.”

Both Gray and King say drivers often run red lights at intersections near the school or make illegal U-turns on the neighborhood's small streets, fed up from waiting in traffic.

“You have people who are running the red lights because they've been sitting in traffic for a while,” King said.

With construction work on Alexandria Place not expected to wrap up until Oct. 1, King says she would like to see more police presence and traffic control measures around the school.

In a statement to ABC10, Lincoln Unified School District Superintendent Kelly Dextraze blamed some of the traffic congestion on SB 328, the law that forces high schools in the state to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

“Traffic at the beginning of school is always challenging. We have taken many steps to improve this by having staff available, communicating with families, identifying alternate pick up and drop off points and working with local agencies on traffic flow,” the statement says. “The necessary construction projects have impacted traffic by limiting access from north of the school, forcing most automobile traffic into Alexandria or Harrisburg from south of the schools, off of Benjamin Holt. The late start bill (SB 328) has also impacted traffic flow as we now have more students arriving at the same time.”

Dextraze added the district will continue to work with the City of Stockton and San Joaquin County to analyze traffic patterns and minimize traffic challenges.

In light of those challenges, the King family says they are hoping for less congested days while setting earlier alarms as they prepare for week two of being back in school and back in traffic.

“I drive (my daughter) as close as I can in all that traffic and then sometimes I have her just get out and walk the rest because it's so bad,” King said. “I feel for these kids, you know, they’re walking a mile that used to take them, you know, 10 minutes to get to school. So it's frustrating.”

You can find more information about routes on the San Joaquin RTD site here.

Watch More Stockton News from ABC10: Stockton school makes safety enhancements following stabbing, death of a student

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