School board approves resolution asking VDOT for traffic signal for new middle school

The Pulaski County School Board on Tuesday began an effort it hopes will result in a hoped-for traffic signal being placed at the Route 11 – Thornspring Road intersection to allow for the preferred entrance into the new middle school site to become a reality.

Following up on its meeting last week when it was learned that Virginia Department of Transportation approval for such a traffic signal was doubtful, the school board on Tuesday approved a resolution urging VDOT to “timely authorize and approve the design and installation of a traffic signal” at the intersection.

The resolution lays out the case for the signal, noting the middle school represents one of the largest publicly funded projects in the history of the county, funding of which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November.

It continues that the school board has determined the preferred entrance to the new school should be located at the Route 11-Thornspring Road intersection where Cougar Express is located, and that “installation of a properly designed traffic signal at this location is essential to insure safe access to the new Pulaski County Middle School, as well as the safety of other users of Route 11, Thornspring Road, and adjacent roads and streets.”

Following its approval, the resolution will be forwarded to the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, as well as to the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the chairperson of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and Pulaski County’s representatives in the state legislature – State Senator Ben Chaffin and Delegates Nick Rush and Chris Hurst.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to lend its support to the resolution at its next meeting on Feb. 26.

The resolution passed by the school board Tuesday was first suggested by County Administrator Jonathan Sweet during last week’s school board meeting where RRMM Architects updated officials and the public on the middle school project.

Sweet’s suggestion came after Supervisors Chairman Andy McCready noted that, while new guidelines adopted by VDOT might not now allow for the construction of the signal at the key intersection, the agency had been known in the past to be swayed by political pressure.

For its part, RRMM’s Ben Motley said his firm would continue to seek approval of the signal, although the site plan for the new school has always included an entrance off Route 11 at the midpoint of the site.  But everyone involved with planning for the school has expressed a preference for the school’s main entrance being at the Route 11 – Thornspring Road intersection – if a signal could be installed.

Motley said waiting on a decision on the signal would not slow continued work on the rest of the project.

Creating the entrance at that intersection would be further enhanced by a potential realigning of Hatcher Road, which county officials suggest would make sense.

Currently, Hatcher Road makes a dog leg bend to the right on its way to intersecting with Route 11 – creating a dangerous blind intersection. Officials suggest changing the direction of the road to bend to the left and intersect with the Route 11 – Thornspring Road intersection. County officials expressed last week that it is believed funding for that move could be obtained separate from the $47 million needed for the school project.