Recent digging behind Larry’s Spring Chicken Inn, Jay’s and Pretzelmaker is proof that the traffic associated with three area schools is becoming overwhelming, and the Morgan County School District is intent on keeping students safe. In addition, parent pick up and drop off traffic has recently been reconfigured at Morgan Elementary School.
“Improving the safety of our students and decreasing traffic congestion are the driving forces in both projects,” Superintendent Doug Jacobs said. “Traffic congestion on Young Street is increasing. We are constantly looking for ways to mitigate the problem of too many cars and buses. This has been an ongoing discussion for the past few years as traffic has increased.”
Last school year, the district transportation committee decided to close Trojan Boulevard between Morgan High School and Morgan Middle School for 10 minutes in the morning while over 400 students were unloaded, and again for 15 minutes in the afternoon when students loaded the buses. The road closure eliminated the need for a crossing guard.
“It has been working in a very efficient manner,” Jacobs said in an email. “However, the city has been uncomfortable with the 25-minute daily closure of the road, and we received a complaint from a neighboring business owner that the closure was interfering with business operations.”
So, the transportation committee met again in August to discuss other possible solutions. At this point, the school board bit the bullet, deciding to fund a more long-term solution. The board accepted a $94,000 bid from Wilkinson Construction to build a new bus road between Larry’s Spring Chicken Inn and MMS.
“The board felt the road shouldn’t be put off any longer and dipped into the fund balance to complete the roadway,” Jacobs said. “It is a substantial amount of money from very limited district funds, but determined (by the board) to be necessary to address safety issues and other legal concerns.”
Local Wilkinson Construction fast tracked the project, so the new private road should be completed in the next few weeks, allowing bus drop off and pick up to take place on district property rather than a public roadway.
“The roadway is a private drive for buses only. Parents will still be encouraged to access the (middle) school from Young Street,” Jacobs said. “The new bus roadway can be used as a safe and effective loading zone for students for many years to come.”
School officials are still working out the details on the how students will be dropped off, but believe buses will use 100 North to get to MHS for drop off in front of the school and then back onto 100 North to the middle school to be dropped off at MMS on the new private roadway. The process would be reversed in the afternoon with MMS being picked up first and then students at MHS, as both middle and high school students use the same buses.
Recent changes at Morgan Elementary were discussed at district transportation meetings last year.
“It has been a collaborative effort with the city, school, district, parents,” Jacobs said. “There were too many students traversing the west side of the school where the buses were loading and unloading. The solution was to flip the bus drop off and the parent drop off. Now bused students are completely removed from the congestion and loaded/unloaded on the east side of the school. Parent drop off/pick up now happens in the area behind the district office. We will be adding new traffic lines and placing cement barriers on the East side of Young street along the sidewalk next to the MES playground in the next two weeks.”