Road construction is not expected to delay traffic near Lakeside high and middle schools and Blue Ridge Elementary when students return Aug. 8, and it might actually improve the congestion-plagued area, officials said Thursday.
School administrators credit improved communication with traffic experts.
“They give us good notice,” Penny Jackson, the county’s assistant school superintendent, said of the Georgia Department of Transportation. “We knew well before school was out that toward the end of our summer school run we were going to have some issues, so we were able to prepare for it ahead of time, and it does help having that good relationship with our county.”
Though construction caused buses to be rerouted for taking summer school students to Lakeside High School, working around construction is something the district has grown accustomed to, Jackson said.
The construction at Blue Ridge Drive closed access at Old Evans Road, where crews are working to complete the new intersection that ties into the $35 million River Watch Parkway extension project.
The detour connected drivers to Blue Ridge Drive via Columbia Industrial Boulevard and Evans to Locks Road.
According to a DOT news release, the intersection is expected to open today at Blue Ridge Drive before crews close Old Evans Road to through traffic from south of Blue Ridge Drive.
The closure of Old Evans Road is expected to reopen Monday.
“When they close (Old Evans Road) off, they have to lift that road up and reconstruct that whole area realigning it with Old Petersburg,” said Kyle Collins, the district DOT spokesman. It will then be tied into the new extension.
According to a news release, the detour around the Old Evans Road closure will include McCormick Road over to Old Petersburg Road/River Watch Parkway. During the closure, nearby neighborhoods and businesses will be accessible.
Before projects are started, the department works to minimize the impact and limit interruptions of highly trafficked areas as much as possible, Collins said.
“Contract work restrictions on lane closures don’t allow interruptions from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday,” Collins said. Once the Blue Ridge intersection reopens, the new extension tie-in will ease traffic congestion and flow.
Jackson said the roadwork is an obstacle but a positive sign of progress.
“We remain optimistic because we know that the hardships we are experiencing right now, the grand plan will be to make it that much better for all of us because we are just so congested right now,” Jackson said of the work at Blue Ridge Drive. “So opening up, widening the roads and giving us more options as far as getting from one place to the other will benefit us all.”
While construction is not expected to affect back-to-schoolers, Jackson said the first week of school brings its own traffic challenges.
“That first week is always a mess because we are trying to iron out bus routes, number of kids on the buses, as well as the parents driving as opposed to putting their kids on the bus,” Jackson said. “So we tend to have delays anyway that first week, but we just iron them out.”
Jackson said Lakeside and Blue Ridge personnel will be watching for any improvements that can be made to ease the flow of traffic.