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Schools prep for traffic snarls
2013-07-31 16.30.23
Traffic backs up along Highway 119 during open houses for Effingham County middle and high schools. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

The first day of school is always hectic, and ongoing road work along Highway 119 could add stress to Monday’s start of classes for Effingham County schools.

However, the contractor plans to work through this weekend and also will not close any lanes during peak school traffic times next week, a state Department of Transportation spokesman said Thursday.

Crews from R.B. Baker Construction were unable to work Thursday following Wednesday’s rainstorm, but they plan to resume resurfacing Highway 119 today and then work 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, according to DOT district communications officer Jill Nagel.

Neither lane of 119 will be closed Monday until after 8 a.m., Nagel added, and workers will take a break around 2 p.m. to allow traffic to flow in and out of Effingham County middle and high schools.

“I’m really glad that the contractor is not going to start until 8 and then break in the afternoons for school traffic,” Nagel said.

Effingham County High School Principal Yancy Ford expressed some concern that work was being done on the road leading to campus just days before the start of school. He said that could require the schedule for the first few days to be a bit more flexible than usual.

“The most important thing,” Ford said, “is we want the kids and the bus drivers to take their time coming in, and let’s get them here safely. If school’s delayed a little bit, then school’s delayed a little bit, and we’ll begin as efficiently and productively as we can.”

ECMS Principal Billy Hughes added, “We will work with students and parents until the construction is cleared.”

A company awarded a contract by the DOT receives a notice to proceed, at which time the contractor takes over the project. R.B. Baker Construction received its notice to proceed June 5, Nagel said, but work did not begin until July 22.

“It’s up to them when they start on the project,” Nagel said. “Now, we did give them suggestions, letting them know when the school year would start, and they are trying to make some concessions as far as working this weekend.”

The $1.5 million project will resurface nearly 10 miles of Highway 119, stretching from Railroad Avenue in Springfield to the Effingham-Bulloch county line. The contractor has 90 days from the July 22 start to complete it, “but could get extra time due to weather or some other unforeseen issues that come up,” Nagel said.

Despite the potential traffic snags, Ford looks forward to the enthusiasm the start of a new school year brings.

“This is always a fun time of year,” Ford said, “because we get a new group of kids who are getting ready to graduate and they’re excited, and we get a new group of incoming ninth-graders who are excited about being in high school, and we’re up for the new challenges. It’s what we do every day — work with kids.”

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