WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- If you’ve driven down Meadowlark Drive when students are coming to and from the middle and elementary schools, in the mornings and afternoons, you’re aware that traffic is a major issue.
“We get here about 7:45 usually,” said Stephanie Walk, a Meadowlark parent. “School starts at 8:20.”
When school is getting in and letting out, traffic regularly backs up to Robinhood and Country Club roads.
“I think it’s absurd,” said Randy Glass, another parent. “My daughter gets tardies and detention, but yet the school buses that are late as well, those kids get excused.”
However, the main issue is safety. In recent weeks, a woman working as a traffic director had her foot run over by a driver who was trying to go around the traffic getting to the schools.
“When they came back into their lane, it happened to be where she was standing and she couldn’t get out of the way,” said Jonathan Wilson, security director for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Then, on Friday, that woman’s supervisor was nearly struck as well.
“Another vehicle grazed him,” Wilson said.
Now, Winston-Salem police have stepped in to direct traffic for the schools.
“People get impatient, they don’t want to wait in that long line and I do get it. But, it is a school zone, and kids are trying to get in there, people trying to get their kids dropped off safely and then get to work on time,” Wilson said.
The schools were put there before the turn of the century. What was not in place at that time is all of the new development and redevelopment in the area.
“Congestion is a measure of success,” said Greg Turner, assistant city manager for the City of Winston-Salem.
With new businesses and housing developments going up in the area, the amount of traffic has grown exponentially.
“It’s just too many cars,” Wilson said. “Too many cars for what that road can handle.”
To alleviate the problem, there are two separate plans in place; one being handled by the city, the other, by the school system.
“Once both phases, ours and the city’s is complete, it will make the situation a lot better,” said Colon Moore, director of construction planning for the school system.
On the city side, they plan to widen Meadowlark Drive to at least three lanes, while also adding a turn lane for the school. However, Turner says they had hoped to already be underway with the project.
“We’ve redesigned and started doing work over again because of new developments that have been announced for that area,” Turner said.
Turner added that their plans are about 75 percent complete and they hope to start right-of-way acquisition by the end of the year, with construction beginning next summer.
As part of the 2016 bonds approved by voters, the school system plans to roughly triple the amount of vehicles they can get onto campus. They plan to ask for schematic design approval at the board of education meeting on Oct. 24. Pending approval, Moore says, it would take about four to five months to complete the documents, before soliciting proposals and ultimately starting construction by the end of spring or early summer of next year.
“Relief is coming,” Turner said. “Relief is being worked on.”
If all goes as planned, the projects would be completed before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
“With what they’ve projected, and what we’ve projected for traffic associated with the school, and associated with the main road, I think the solutions that we’re implementing should address things for the long-term,” Turner said.