The N.C. Department of Transportation has agreed to reimburse the school system when it paves Bryan Road, the primary street serving the new Garner elementary and middle school sites.
The agreement ends a long battle over who will pay for the road fixes from Clifford to Ackerman Roads: The Wake County Public School System, the Town of Garner, or N.C. DOT.
Bryan Road is an unpaved gravel road, maintained by the state. It is too narrow making it impossible for fire trucks and school buses to pass each other on the road. Traffic studies have indicated it needs to be paved and widened before the school adds traffic to the roads. It created a safety concern for town leaders.
The school system initially asked the Garner Town Council not to require it to pave Bryan Road because it wasn’t in the budget, but council members insisted that a school couldn’t be served by a gravel road.
The two sides finally did reach an agreement after months of negotiations. School officials agreed to find the money to pay for the road. They applied for a State Contingency Funds grant from N.C. DOT. the department has granted that request for $678,054. The request was sponsored by members in the House and Senate, including Speaker Pro-Tem Paul Stam, Rep. Darren Jackson and Sen. Chad Barefoot.
The funding will be voted on at the Board of Transportation’s September meeting, where an agreement will be formally approved.
“The road for the most part will be two lanes except along parts of the frontage and near entrances to the school campus where turn lanes are added,” said Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities.
According to the contract between DOT and the school system, the department will “maintain the construction upon completion.” Any costs over the $678,000 will be the responsibility of the school system.
Mayor Pro-tem Kathy Behringer said she was excited to hear that the school system had secured the funding to pave the road.
“Typically when there is new development from any entity, they are required to do road improvement,” Behringer said of why the council was adamant about making sure WCPSS paved the road. “Their initial thought to leave it as an unpaved road was absolutely unacceptable.”
Behringer said the road was in bad shape and much worse than other dirt roads.
“I know there will probably never be a day we will have the money for everything we need, but Garner needs to be treated just like other schools and towns in the county and there aren’t other schools in the county on dirt roads,” she said. “And I think this was certainly the right thing to do.”
Construction of Bryan Road Elementary is expected to be completed by August, 2017, in time for Vandora Springs Elementary School students to use Bryan Road as a swing space while their school undergoes renovations. The next year, in August, 2018, Bryan Road Elementary would open as a new school.
The school, located at 8317 Bryan Road, will be a three-story building with 109,432 square feet on 16 acres. It will be able to accommodate 800 students.
Construction on the site has already started. Three months ago, school and and elected officials broke ground at the site.
WCPSS has not yet set a timetable for when it hopes to construct the middle school on that road.