WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – With the start of the 2018-2019 school year just days away, the project intended to cut down on school-related traffic and alleviate some thru traffic on Meadowlark Drive in Winston-Salem has been delayed.
Meadowlark Drive is not only home to both Meadowlark Elementary and Middle schools, but it is also a popular cut-through for people traveling between Country Club and Robinhood roads.
On school days, parents are regularly seen waiting for as many as 45 minutes on Meadowlark Drive to either drop off or pick up their children from school.
In turn, the traffic makes it tough for people in nearby, growing neighborhoods to get around.
“It’s usually a 10 minute wait just to turn out of the neighborhood,” said Josh Hauser, who lives off Meadowlark Drive.
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.
The original plan was for the city to do their portion of the project, while the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system underwent a separate project to get traffic off the road and onto the campus.
“It’s a pain,” said Morgan Gillis, who works in the area. “It’s very packed all the time.”
However, when the school system saw the city’s plan, they decided to pull their funding from their project and direct it toward school safety projects.
“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, in May, after the decision was made.
Also in May, the city said they planned to have their portion of the project underway by summer.
City officials then said their plan was to create 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.
There would also be a concrete median in the middle of the road. 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, the city said.
The main entrance would then become a right-turn only out of the school.
“Anybody that lives around here can tell you it’s really, really bad,” Hauser said, of the current situation.
In June, the city started accepting bids for the project, which they estimated to cost about $6 million.
But, the first time, there weren’t enough bids placed. When the city opened the project for bids a second time in June, the lowest bid came in at $9 million and the highest came in at $18 million.
City officials believe the bids were high because of the several current construction projects around the city and county which are leaving contractors flush with opportunities.
“I think in this economy they need to take the hit and get it over with,” Hauser said.
Instead of putting the burden on the taxpayers, city officials have decided to stop taking bids on the project until 2019.
“I think it’s cool that they looked out for the taxpayers and everything. But, if they’re going to fix a road they need to do it,” Gillis added.
The city tells FOX8 that real estate acquisition has continued, and some utility work is already underway.
Once it starts, the city’s portion of the project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
The school system says they plan to postpone their project until the city’s is complete. The project was initially approved in their November 2016 Bond Referendum, with a budget of $1,844,632 dollars.
It was previously projected to begin on March 1, 2018, with a completion date of Oct. 1, 2018.
The overall budget for the city’s Meadowlark Drive Widening project is at $7.61 million.