The ongoing construction on U.S. Highway 321 has forced Lenoir City Schools to reconsider bus routes that typically trek up the highway.
The trio of city schools are near the heart of the nonstop highway construction, but only a few changes were made to bus routes, Mike Sims, Lenoir City Schools supporting supervisor, said.
“We only have two out of our 12 buses that run any on 321, and one goes from the elementary school would go towards the dam, and the other comes out of the elementary school,” Sims said. “That comes the back way. We don’t use 321 until we have to there.”
The transportation department has re-routed a couple of buses to ensure student safety, and Sims said the change can tack on extra miles.
“Because we have to back track so much trying to miss all that construction, and when it gets finished, we’ll go back to running our normal routes,” he said. “No, it isn’t (a big deal) for us, but still, it’s hard to maneuver there sometimes.”
Lenoir City Police Department has worked with schools to determine the best routes. Don White, Lenoir City police chief, said the department feels it is necessary to keep schools abreast of construction projects to ensure students arrive safely and on time.
“We fortunately have a great relationship with the school system and Dr. (Jeanne) Barker and Mike Sims,” White said. “On an annual basis, we’ll discuss any issues that have come up to do with our construction projects, and, of course, currently we have a huge project going on with the 321 corridor from Simpson Road down to 321 and 11. We just want to make sure the school system’s aware of any issues that would cause them to have to do a detour and to make sure that we’ve got the best routes and safest routes possible throughout each school year.”
LCPD determined median construction could prove difficult for buses crossing the highway.
“Probably the biggest thing that we deal with right now is because of the median work that’s being done currently and the amount of construction equipment that’s working in the middle of 321,” White said. “The crossovers, several are shut down currently. We just wanted to make sure — and there’s a lot of congestion — we just wanted to make sure that we’re able to get the children back to their residence as quickly as possible when school is released and so we just wanted to make sure all the routes were looked at to see what would be the best options.”
Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, was grateful that the school system received help from both Sims and LCPD.
Though the new routes help ensure student safety, Sims, like many in the county, shares the feeling of anticipation for construction to come to a close so buses can return to regular routes.
“I just hope it goes good,” Sims said. “I’ll be glad when they finish.”
The Loudon County Schools transportation office was unavailable for comment by News-Herald presstime.