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Driving You Crazy: Why are the school zones around the intersection of Dry Creek and University all different?

School zone
Posted at 4:53 AM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 06:53:16-05

Troy from Centennial writes, “What's driving you crazy? Why are the school zones around the intersection of Dry Creek and University all different? Each direction from the intersection is different in speed and time of enforcement.”

As I mentioned in a previous story about a school zone much farther north along University near Cherry Creek, school zones are there to ensure children are able to get to or from school safely whether it is by walking, riding a bike, by bus or driven by their parents. The lowered speed limit is designed to ensure anyone can be around a school without fear of being hit by passing vehicles, especially along a very busy streets like South University and Dry Creek.

There are three separate school zones directly next to Arapahoe High School. There is a fourth one a bit farther south on University, in front of the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School. The posted speed limit on University Blvd is 45 mph. That limit drops down to 30 mph during the school zone enforcement hours. The normal speed limit on Dry Creek Road is 40 mph. That drops down to 25 mph when the school zone is enforced. The third school zone is on Franklin Street on the west side of AHS. It’s listed as 25 mph when children are present down from the normal 30 mph.

The common factor for two of the three roads is that the speed limit drops by 15 mph. It’s the same in front of the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School where the posted 45 mph limit on University Blvd drops down to 30 mph.

“The non-school speed limit on University is higher than the non-school speed limit on Dry Creek, so the school speed limit on University is higher than the school speed limit on Dry Creek,” says Anna Bunce, City of Centennial Traffic Engineer. “This maintains a reasonable differential between school and non-school speed limits on each segment of roadway.”

This is correct,” Tamara Rollison with the Colorado Department of Transportation tells me. “To enable motorists to effectively react to speed limit reductions without excessive braking, it has been a longstanding practice to limit differences between adjacent speed zones to no more than 15 mph.”

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

CDOT is involved here because University Blvd doubles as Colorado State Highway 177 so it falls under their jurisdiction. Dry Creek Road and Franklin Street are maintained by the city of Centennial.

It could be argued that an even lower school zone speed limit should be implemented on University, even though drop-off and pick-up traffic is typically more concentrated on Dry Creek due to the orientation of Arapahoe High School's campus. One other note here, be extra alert for the kids who are crossing the street. Throughout the school day, there are students crossing Dry Creek and University to get to the numerous restaurants and other businesses on the south and east sides of the school. I watched many students use the crosswalks, but I also saw others who just ran across the street. It’s obviously a dangerous situation as I also watched numerous drivers going well above the speed limit. Just be extra aware of kids crossing the street near any school, especially high schools where kids have more freedom to come and go during school hours.

According to a survey of Colorado drivers by AAA, over half said they drive through a school zone on their daily commute. The problem is that these drivers concede to driving badly in school zones. 38% admitted to exceeding the speed limit and 30% admitted to using their cell phone while driving in an active school zone. Even worse, 20% admitted to driving around a school bus while its red lights are flashing and 22% admitted to cutting off a school bus because the driver was going too slowly.

There are two separate school zones near each other on University, one for Arapahoe High School, the other a bit south of Dry Creek for Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School. Each zone is timed corresponding to the specific school zone times associated with it. There also are existing school zone flashing beacons on University and on Dry Creek. The flashing beacons on University for AHS and SotHLS are maintained by CDOT, while the flashing beacons on Dry Creek are maintained by the City of Centennial.

When the school zone is active, the fine for speeding is doubled. That equates to a $66 fine for going 1 to 4 mph over the school zone speed limit. It’s $150 for going 5 to 9 mph over. The fine for going 10 to 19 mph over rises to $302 and it is a $464 fine for going 20 to 24 mph over the school zone speed limit.

By the way, State Highway 177 (University Blvd) is one of the shortest state highways, just a touch over 6 miles long running between C-470 and US 285/Hampden Ave.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , iHeart, Spotify or Podbean.