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Harrison County signs agreement with Harleton ISD to address school jam

By Robin Y. Richardson
June 24, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Massive potholes are seen on Stadium Drive, leading up to Harleton High School's football stadium Thursday.

HARLETON - Traffic may flow a little smoother for Harleton ISD this school year, thanks to an interlocal agreement between Harrison County and the district to repair Stadium Drive, which will become a relief route from the main highway.

"Hopefully this is going to be a major safety improvement for the citizens and the students and the whole school district - anybody that travels (State Highway) 154," said Pct. 4 County Commissioner Jay Ebarb, who represents the area.

According to the contract, Harleton ISD will pay the county to reconstruct the entire length of Stadium Drive. The total cost of the project is $38,321.20. Of that $17,867.20 is for materials. Labor amounts to $3,624. Equipment fees equate $16,830.

Ebarb explained that repairs are crucial in order for the state to do what's necessary to relieve the heavy congestion on the highway. As a former school board member and now county commissioner, he's been pushing for the state's intervention for the past several years.

"Finally we were able to get them involved and they are going to do some things that are going to alleviate some major safety issues on (Highway) 154 in the morning and the afternoon when parents are picking up and dropping off children and it's pretty much a standstill," Ebarb said.

"They need to reroute all the traffic that was backing up on 154," he explained.

In order to do that, Stadium Drive that runs by the school into the stadium, has to be reconstructed.

"(They) agreed this Stadium Drive gives them access," said Ebarb. "It should take all the traffic off of 154 that pile up in the morning and the afternoon.

"(It's) just an accident waiting to happen," Ebarb said of the current state of conditions.

Harleton ISD Superintendent Craig Coleman noted that they moved forward with plans after the state highway department visited the district in the spring to conduct a traffic study. A 12-hour video surveillance revealed to the department just how jammed traffic was.

"They set the camera up at a 12-hour period and videoed a morning and afternoon of drop-off and pick-up and looked at it and said: 'Ooh, we do have a major safety issue,'" Ebarb said.

"They made some suggestions and the school made some suggestions," he said.

The entities ultimately decided to implement restricted hours for morning and afternoon traffic, and designate Stadium Drive as a relief route.

"This was a recommendation that came from that study," Coleman said.

"They will restrict traffic on the county road (CR 4700) by the school and take the backup traffic off of the state highway," Ebarb explained. "In order to do that, they'll redirect the morning and afternoon traffic up to Stadium Drive."

The county commissioner is pleased to see the issue finally addressed.

"I'm glad that they elected to do this," said Ebarb.

"Through the years the school has grown and we just never have been able to find a good solution," he said."

Coleman said they are trying to make conditions as safe as possible for students, parents and everyone involved.

"We definitely have a traffic situation in the mornings and afternoon when parents are picking up students so we're trying to alleviate that," the superintendent said. "We're looking forward to working with the county and correcting this."

He said the state highway department will be installing the restricted hour signs at some point this summer to prepare motorists for what's to come.

"It's rerouting traffic," Coleman said. "Grand Avenue will be a one-way street during certain times of the day."

He said Grand Avenue, which is County Road 4700, runs beside the elementary and junior high campuses.

"It will help free that up," said Coleman.

Ebarb agrees that the rerouting will keep traffic from backing up in front of the elementary, junior high and high schools that are located off of the main highway. The fact that Stadium Drive, which leads to the football stadium, was in dire need of repair anyway, makes it a win-win situation for all.

"This road needed to be addressed and they felt like the solution was to pay us to rebuild it," Ebarb said of Stadium Drive, explaining the old private road was getting in pretty bad shape. "We met with John Paul and they made some suggestions."

They suggested that the county's road and bridge department include the private pothole road in its summer road construction plans, currently in session.

"Once they get out in precinct 4 and do their roadwork, the school will pay for the county to do it right," said Ebarb, sharing the school district had been spraying the private road for years with DuraPatcher, as a quick fix.

"Hopefully this will work for the school for years (to come)," he said.

"If you're going to redirect your traffic off your state highway (onto a road) that they (HISD) maintain then the school felt like they needed to address this or the people would get upset," Ebarb said. "Hopefully it'll be a win-win for both parties."

The commissioner said traffic backs up pretty bad on Highway 154, at both east and west directions of the schools.

"It's pretty treacherous at times," he said. "Hopefully, this will be a better solution for everyone."

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