Dirt Roads in Wake County

The Board of Education Work Session on Tuesday was a half hour update on the progress of public infrastructure required for the construction of Bryan Road Elementary School (E31).

Eight years ago, WCPSS purchased a 50-acre site on Bryan Road south of Garner for future construction of an elementary and middle school.  Bryan Road was then a dirt road.  It was also then on an NC Department of Transportation list to be paved.  Times were different eight years ago, pre-recession and all.

Post-recession, NC DOT projects are prioritized in a different way.  Bryan Road is still a dirt road.  And there are no longer plans, nor money, at DOT to pave it.

And Bryan Road Elementary is scheduled to open as a swing space for the Vandora Springs Elementary in the fall of 2017.

Why does a dirt road stand in the way?  This is a two lane road that will require a turning lane and there is a strong curve to be straightened.  Presenters on Tuesday night explained that taking on the construction of the road in full would add millions in costs to the project.  These millions have not been planned or appropriated.

Also at issue have been state and municipal standards for road construction.  In this case, Garner municipal standards are higher (and thus more expensive) than state standards.  After many hours of public meetings, discussions, and negotiations, Garner has agreed to approve a road plan approved by DOT.  (For the curious, a more expensive road design includes curb and gutter as opposed to ditches between the road and a sidewalk.)  WCPSS will contribute funding to the cost of road construction and will seek funding assistance from DOT.

How often do municipal standards play a role in school construction, permitting, and occupancy?  Quite often.  Consider that there are thirteen agencies – twelve municipalities and one county – involved in all of Wake County.  All school construction takes place in one of these thirteen areas for permitting and occupancy.  Not all agencies have the same standards or processes.

Board Chair Tom Benton called forth a past conversation about a county-wide task force to pull municipal and county agencies together for the purpose of establishing a simpler path.  One imagines the goal would be to establish a common set of standards that all thirteen agencies could agree on regarding school construction.  That’s a worthwhile goal indeed.

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