Students attending Cary Elementary and Heartwood Montessori schools may have to leave home a few minutes early this fall to navigate around the downtown streetscape construction affecting roads in front of their schools.
The town started construction about two months ago with plans to close one lane of South Academy Street at a time over the course of the project. As utilities are installed, only southbound traffic is open on Academy Street and Kildaire Farm Road with eastbound traffic allowed on Dry Avenue.
But with a combined 740 students expected to attend the schools this year, school officials, town employees and Cary police officers have been preparing for additional traffic when traditional calendar schools begin Monday, Aug. 24.
Cary Elementary is on the northernmost part of Kildaire Farm Road, near the intersection of Byrum Street, where vehicles are detoured to access other parts of downtown. Road barriers block northbound traffic at that same intersection. Heartwood Montessori is around the corner from Cary Elementary’s entrance and is on Byrum, just off Kildaire Farm.
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The project, which was approved by voters as part of the 2012 bond referendum, will cost about $8 million, including design and construction,
“One of the things we are going to do is we are going to do right turns only in and out of the parking lot to keep things safe and flowing better,” said Rod Stanton, principal of Cary Elementary. “And we’ve always asked parents to use the back parking lot (off Harrison Avenue) so things don’t back up up front.”
Bus routes also have been slightly changed to prevent buses from crossing Kildaire Farm Road to Byrum Street after exiting the bus loop.
Because some Heartwood Montessori students started school on Aug. 18, Director Sue Daniel said drop-off and pick-up have gone smoothly so far. But with additional students being phased in on Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, it could become more congested.
Parents are asked to enter and exit the Byrum Street location using right turns only, and staff has been instructed to park off-site so carpools can circulate faster, Daniel said.
Kyle Hubert, the town’s senior engineer, said additional detour signs have been placed to help parents navigate to and from the schools.
“What our focus was is to try to put up alternate routes along Kildaire Farm Road, including Maynard Road and Cornwall Road, before you get to Byrum to try to split some of the traffic off,” he said.
For added safety, Cary police officers will be concentrated in all school zones and in areas with multiple bus stops during the first two weeks of the school year as part of the department’s annual “School’s In, Speed’s Out” campaign.
“Historically, we have always put a lot of emphasis in our school zones at the start of the school year, and it usually takes about two weeks for parents and the traffic to get all worked out,” Cary Police Maj. Scott Davis said.
The town is hoping to see work completed near the schools and Cary Arts Center by the end of the year with the entire downtown project to be completed by next summer. Cary Arts Center is at the end of Academy Street and sits near the center of construction.
“Just be patient. Safety is most important,” Stanton said. “Maybe plan a few extra minutes because it is a little tougher to navigate.”
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon