MT. COMFORT — Construction of a multilane roundabout at Mt. Comfort Road and CR 300N will soon send parents and bus drivers on detours to reach Mt. Comfort Elementary School.
It’s enough to give administrators back-to-school jitters as they anticipate traffic back-ups at the beginning and end of each school day.
Construction of the roundabout began in May and is expected to be complete in October. Starting around Aug. 9, the eastern leg of the intersection will be closed for construction, blocking the route most people take to the elementary school.
Heather Whitaker, Mt. Comfort Elementary principal, said she’s been coordinating all summer with the construction crew and the school resource officer on how to handle driver confusion and traffic congestion.
“Everybody will be coming from the east at that point,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker has already sent parents emails about alternate routes to the school and discussed the issue at back-to-school meetings this week. School starts today, and Whitaker said there could even be backups on Mt. Comfort Road today because of the work on the western side.
“Just getting everyone in for the next two weeks till they close everything off (on the eastern side) is going to be a difficult chore, too,” she said.
The roundabout has been planned for years, and when a timeline was originally penciled in three years ago, county officials thought the work on the eastern side of the roundabout would be complete before school started.
But that was before schools went to a balanced calendar. Gary Pool, engineer for the Hancock County Highway Department, said the fact that school starts early combined with a slow start to construction due to a late winter means the traffic snag hits right in the first two months of the school year.
“I wish that (construction) was going faster, but I wish that on every project,” Pool said, adding that once construction started it has been going fairly smoothly. “I’m not upset at the speed it’s going. It’s chugging along.”
Pool said once the eastern leg of the intersection closes, motorists should take CR 400W to get to Mt. Comfort Elementary School.
Whitaker said with all motorists coming from the east, traffic could get congested. She’s also warning parents to be careful on county roads they’re not accustomed to. Some only have two-way stops, she said, and it can be tricky to see around with tall corn stalks close to the corners.
The school’s resource officer will be on hand to help direct traffic, and Whitaker is hopeful once the construction of the roundabout is completed, parents will have an easier time getting in and out of the school.