WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Every school day, parents and grandparents line Meadowlark Drive in Winston-Salem waiting to pick up and drop off students at Meadowlark elementary and middle schools.
Sometimes, it takes them up to 40 minutes to do so, and people who live and work nearby are constantly caught in the congestion.
“Nasty, too much traffic,” said Clifford Barber, whose grandson attends the elementary school. “Backed up every day, when it rains it’s worse.”
In 2014, voters approved a city bond which included a road improvement project for Meadowlark Drive, to alleviate additional congestion resulting from residential and business developments which have taken place over the last decade. But, since then, the road has largely remained the same.
“It needs to be widened, something needs to be done,” Barber said.
As recently as last year, the city and school system planned two separate projects to improve traffic conditions in the area, which would have coincided.
On Thursday, city officials say they’re ready to move forward with their project, but after seeing the city’s plans, the school system now says they’re holding off.
“We felt like we needed to make some changes to our design in order to meet the needs of our customer base,” said Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Assistant Superintendent Darrell Walker.
The city plans to add a third lane to the road, which runs from Robinhood Road to Country Club Road. However, in front of the school, a fourth lane will be added.
“The vast majority of the congestion is associated with traffic trying to go to and from the school,” said City of Winston-Salem Assistant City Manager Greg Turner. “What this plan does is it gets that school-destined traffic out of the way of the through traffic.”
Turner said there will be a dedicated northbound right-turn lane for about 700 feet, which would lead to the main entrance of the campus.
In addition, there would be another 700-foot left turn lane going southbound, which would allow buses to enter through the southern entrance and force southbound traffic to make a U-turn to get into the 700-foot northbound right-turn lane.
Turner says the city will also be constructing a stop light at the southern entrance.
In the middle, there would be a concrete median.
Turner says the median would allow for both right and left turns, until the school system builds a new entrance for the campus on the north end.
Upon completion of the new entrance, the median would be closed, making it a right-turn only out of the main entrance.
“One way in, one way out is not going to work,” said Brian Yount, who has children at both schools.
But, there’s a problem.
“We were going to do our project this summer, [now] we’re going to postpone our project until after theirs is complete,” Walker said.
The school system now says they’re revisiting their plan, meaning there may not be any new northern entrance.
“Our pickup, drop-off may look totally different than we originally designed and we’re anticipating some pretty major changes,” Walker said.
Walker said their project planning has been centered around getting the school-related traffic off the road and onto the campus.
Turner says the city is currently acquiring right-of-way, with plans to begin construction by the summer.
“The project’s going to take at least 18 months,” he said. “So, it definitely will be going on during school season.”
The school system’s Meadowlark Elementary/Middle Traffic Improvements project was approved in their November 2016 Bond Referendum, with a budget of $1,844,632 dollars. It was previously projected to begin on today’s date, with a completion date of Oct. 1, 2018.
The city’s Meadowlark Drive Widening project is budgeted at $7.61 million.