“It’s quite an issue because we have many students who live in that area,” said Tony Morris, transportation supervisor for the Pell City School System.
Morris said the Eden area has 10 buses that transport students to Eden Elementary School, as well as Williams Intermediate, Duran North Jr. High, Duran South Jr. High and Pell City High.
“Four or five of the buses already had to detour based on the bridge that is out at the Chula Vista exit about a half-mile toward Leeds,” he said. “Now eight buses have to detour.”
Morris said bus drivers have to pick up students 15 minutes earlier in the morning.
“Plus, we aren’t the only ones traveling the detour roads,” he said. “It slows everything down.”
Morris said he hasn’t been able to calculate the extra fuel cost for the minimum five-mile detour.
“The average school bus gets six miles-per-gallon, so it’s about one gallon more each day for those eight buses,” he said.
Morris said the School System has 38 regular bus routes and four special needs buses.
“About 2,000 students ride the school buses each day and the detours affect almost 400 students,” he said.
Morris said he requested that the Alabama Department of Transportation do the bridge replacement project over the summer, based on the impact to buses and parent pickup and delivery for the Pell City School System and also Victory Christian School, which is close to the bridge off Interstate 20.
“I hope they finish it sooner than later,” he said. “But we will deal with the reality they are giving us.”
Brian Fowler of Chula Vista said his daughter attended Eden Elementary School last year and is attending Williams Intermediate this year.
“We drive her to school and pick her up,” he said. “It costs us an extra 10 minutes each way, twice a day,” he said. “This is a big deal for us — for everyone who lives on this side of town. And the traffic congestion is a pain, too.”
Gary Smith, District 6 manager for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said the traffic count from 2011 was 6,860 vehicles traveling across Wolf Creek Bridge each day. Traffic counts are conducted every two years.
“I relayed the concerns and requests for a temporary bridge or an accelerated project to my superiors,” he said. “It was heavily discussed, but they found it was not feasible because the money needed to pay for an accelerated timeframe was too much. The project wasn’t worth the money to pay extra to have it completed sooner, according to ALDOT design officials.”
Smith said constructing a temporary bridge was ruled out for several reasons.
“We don’t have the right of way, so ALDOT would have to purchase that,” he said. “They would also have to build up a roadway and place the temporary bridge. It would take both extra time and money.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.