Organize, lobby political leaders – The Vacaville Reporter

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A woman passionately asked questions during a gathering at Vanden High School to discuss extending Markeley Lane in Fairfield on Saturday. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

A Travis Unified trustee, two Fairfield City Council members, a Solano County Supervisor and concerned district parents met Saturday to discuss safe streets near Vanden High while they gathered in the school’s parking lot.

Two Fairfield streets at issue for the local elected leaders and the parents were Markeley and Viking lanes, which intersect. Markeley does not extend to the Peabody Road overcrossing, where for years a lone Markeley Lane sign has led to a grassy, undeveloped field.

Since Markeley does not reach to the four-lane overcrossing — and was never extended at the same time during the overcrossing’s construction — traffic backups are commonplace during the school year in the mornings and afternoons, when students arrive and depart, at four schools in the area. Besides Vanden, which has more than 1,600 students, the others are Golden West Middle School, with more than 700 students; Center Elementary, with more than 500; and the Travis Education Center, which has more than 70.

The vehicle traffic – including school buses – contributes to a heavily congested area not just on Peabody Road but also to the neighborhoods just off Peabody and adjacent to Vanden and Golden West.

Two parents confirmed to The Reporter before and after the morning gathering, dubbed “Street Talk 2023,” that a TUSD bus recently struck and injured a Vanden student in the Whitney/Cascade neighborhood.

As the gathering got underway at 10 a.m., with some 40 parents and students in attendance, the parental concerns prompted Fairfield Vice Mayor Pam Bertani to urge parents to organize and attend City Council meetings “to move the issue forward.”

For a major capital improvement project, such as the Markeley extension, “We need more votes,” she said, noting she and Mayor Catherine Moy would count for two of those votes, but it would require two others on the seven-member Council to make a difference.

TUSD Board Vice President Matt Bidou said, “Everyone knows there’s a need” to extend Markeley to aid evacuation of some 3,000 school children, hundreds of adult staff members, and thousands of area residents in the event of an active shooter or fire.

Supervisor Mitch Mashburn, who represents parts of Vacaville and Fairfield, estimated the cost of putting in infrastructure, such as sewer and water lines, for “a little piece of roadway,” would approach $5 million.

“Be informed and organize,” he urged the parents, adding that they speak not only to council members but also “other PTAs” and “to stand together — that’s how change is made.”

While the expense to extend Markeley would be considerable, Mashburn conceded, pointing to a woman who brought up the matter of costs, he then added, “Guess whose (taxpayer) money it is — it’s yours.”

Bidou called the possible Markeley extension project “a community issue” and political leaders, specifically Fairfield City Council whose district does not include the TUSD area, need to be aware of it.

“All we need is a good, legal road,” said Bidou, a former Solano County correctional officer, former Rio Vista police officer and former Vanden athletic director.

One parent noted the project likely would take years, given the need for Environmental Impact Reports, and said the city councils of both Fairfield and Vacaville — and the leaders  on Travis Air Force Base — need to understand the issue because “they all use this area.”

Bidou pointed out that money intended for the Markeley extension at the time of the Peabody overcrossing construction was eventually “redirected” to developers.

Mashburn, a former Solano County Jail commander, said he had already lobbied Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, to set aside money for Markeley Lane.

Moy, who arrived after the gathering started, also urged parents to organize and vote and urge others in other City Council districts to vote for candidates who will advocate for the Markeley extension.

A sign on Peabody Road in Fairfield indicates Markeley Lane may extend toward the Vanden High School student parking lot, but it does not, and the roadway extension was never completed during construction of the Peabody overcrossing some years ago. (Reporter photo/Richard Bammer)

Another parent said he believed the cutoff of Markeley at the time of overcrossing’s construction “must be a code violation,” since a crossing over railroad tracks (federal land) requires federal involvement.

“Student safety is my primary concern,” said Bidou, adding that without adequate exit routes from the three-school area in the event of an emergency would mean “students running out into a field” to escape.

In a brief interview after the gathering, he noted that Bertani had “pleaded” with other council members to support funding for the Markeley extension. But “People just don’t want to go there” he added, characterizing the Council’s apparent lack of interest.

Bidou recalled lobbying the council in the past, but some members of the council turned a deaf ear to the concerned parent “because the parents don’t vote in the district.”

Needing at least two more council members to pass a resolution regarding the Markeley extension, he said., “We’ve got to go out in their district and campaign against them and campaign for people running against them — that’s the only card we can play.”

Regarding the Markeley extension that never occurred during the Peabody overcrossing construction, Bidou noted, “The county property map shows Markeley Lane through (extended). It’s not.”

“It was swept under the rug,” he asserted and the money was redirected to the developers. They’ve got a lot of power. I had to ask myself, ‘Somebody didn’t care.’”

Bidou lamented morning traffic congestion in the area, saying, “We cannot get our kids to school on time. At least one bus is late to school every day. In this day and age, school safety is the number one priority. Why can’t we get this moving?”

He said $1.5 million would be enough to construct “a bare bones road” to Peabody, an estimated 900 yards.

“If anything happens,” added Bidou, “we won’t be able to evacuate them” as quickly as possible without the Markeley extension.

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