Families with students at both Pulaski County High and Northern Middle schools may be getting a quicker way to reach either campus next year.
During the last week of November, Pulaski County Schools closed on the purchase of a 20-acre tract lying between the two schools.
Pulaski Superintendent Patrick Richardson reported to school board members last month that he has been working with state legislators to secure funding in order to build a road "to try to help with the traffic situation on [Ky.] 1247 and Highway 39." Working with state representatives David Meade (R-80) and Ken Upchurch (R-52) as well as State Senator Rick Girdler (R-15), Richardson said the district has been able to secure $1.3 million in the state budget for the project.
"Beyond that I don't know any more details," the superintendent advised board members. "But that's exciting to know that the [Kentucky] Transportation Cabinet has scheduled that project."
State legislators are set to convene for the 2021 General Assembly Tuesday. Unlike most 30-day "short sessions" allocated for odd years, lawmakers have more on their collective plate this year since COVID-19 cut short the 2020 "long session" and prevented them from passing a traditional two-year budget.
Supt. Richardson noted to board members that when the former central office building on University Drive was torn down in June 2019, the resulting parking lot and new entrance to Pulaski County High School was designed with a future road in mind to accommodate traffic flow.
"My goal is to get as much traffic off 39 and 1247 in the mornings and afternoons as possible," Richardson said, adding that he'd like to see 100 percent of buses between PCHS and Northern Middle use the planned access road as well as any parents traveling to both schools.
Amber Hale, spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's District 8 Office in Somerset, confirmed that the access road is included in the state's six-year highway plan with a design phase scheduled for this fiscal year. The remaining phases, including construction, are scheduled to begin some time in Fiscal Year 2022. Total project cost is estimated at $1.52 million.
Upchurch, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, explained that the state's road fund took a "pretty significant hit" last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That [revenue] is being built back up slowly," Rep. Upchurch said. "As it is, we are getting more dollars in the plan. The Cabinet's being pretty judicious about letting contracts on different projects; they want to be sure the money is there. Hopefully by the time this one is due for construction, that's not going to be an issue."
When construction can get underway, Sen. Girdler noted that the access road will greatly alleviate congestion when classes are starting and letting out at the two schools.
"It will be far less hazardous for our kids and the public," he said. "I've been tickled about it and so is the superintendent. We've been talking about this project for the last three years. Whenever you talk about roads, safety is the first thing to consider."