Monday, August 09, 2010

TOP STORY >> Road repairs continue near Cabot schools

IN SHORT: Work crews hurry up with turn lanes and other improvements to make traffic flow better in growing city.

Leader staff writer

School starts in less than two weeks and workers are busy in Cabot on road projects to ease traffic congestion.

The work in progress includes a turn lane at Hwy. 321 and Kerr Station Road for Middle School South, a drop-off lane behind Southside Elementary to get school traffic off Hwy. 89 and completion of the roads for Mountain Springs Elementary, the new school that opens this term.

“We’re excited about getting these projects done before school starts to alleviate some of the traffic,” Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said.

Jerrel Maxwell, head of Cabot Public Works, said Friday that the turn lane at Hwy. 321 and Kerr is costing the city about $35,000. But the drop-off lane behind Southside isn’t costing the city anything. The city had to approve the work, being done by Tony Taylor, he said. But the school district is paying for it.

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman said his workers are building a turn lane at Mt. Springs Road in front of the new elementary that will be completed by the time school starts.

“The schools and cities are all part of the county,” Troutman said. “It’s a safety issue with the buses turning.”

Troutman said he hasn’t figured the cost of the job. The money for the labor and materials came from his bridge and road budget, he said.

“If I have the money, I do the work,” he said.

Maxwell was hopeful that a traffic light at the intersection of Locust Street and Hwy. 367 would be in place be the time school starts Aug. 19, but Randy Ort, spokesman for the state highway department says there is no way that will happen.

Locust is a shortcut between the high school and the freeway.

A project will go out to bid in September or November, Ort said.

“The irony is that once the contract is awarded, it’s going to be several months before it’s completed even though the actual work takes only a couple of weeks,” he said.

There is no stock traffic light system. Everything, including the arm that holds the light and the signal box, is manufactured after the contract is awarded, he said.

The light that will make crossing Hwy. 367 easier won’t be up by the time school starts this year, but it should be up before it starts next year, he said.

In recent years, traffic lights have averaged $100,000. But Ort said inflation has increased the cost. However the light should still be less than $150,000. The state is involved with the project only because it is on a state highway. The city will pay 20 percent of the cost and federal government will pay 80 percent, he said.