Education1

The Belgrade School District will not be required to pay for a new traffic signal or fully develop the long stretch of road leading to its newest elementary school before the opening bell rings two years from now, according to terms of a pending interlocal agreement that has been hammered out between the city, school district, and other agencies.

Instead, the district will spend $1.9 million for about a mile of two-lane paving on Bolinger Road between West Main Street and the new school site. Bolinger then will be connected to Cruiser Lane to the east, making the site accessible via a second main route.

Traffic studies completed earlier this year indicated that without the Cruiser connection, the volume of traffic approaching the school from the south likely would have necessitated installation of a traffic light at Main and Bolinger earlier than originally planned, and at a cost far exceeding the initial estimate. It also might have required the district to pay for full, final-design construction of Bolinger Road – four lanes with turn lanes, bike lanes, parking areas and so on – then wait for reimbursement from residential developers for their share of the project costs at an undetermined future date.

“That’s a relief,” Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said this week about the agreed resolution to the Bolinger Road conundrum. “The agreement is that when we do our part, the district does not have to participate in the final phase (of road construction).”

City Planning Director Jason Karp said it is still unknown when developers of all three planned subdivisions in the new school’s vicinity will fully begin their projects, and consequently when they will be required to ante up for their share of Bolinger Road’s development. It’s possible that “it could be coming in about the same time” as the school opening in fall 2021, Karp said, but will depend on market factors.

While city officials said in the past that the preferred option would be to have Bolinger Road built to final design specifications at the school district’s expense in one phase, they acknowledged that waiting for developers to reimburse the district later might not be realistic.

“All parties involved worked really hard to make an agreement that would work for everybody,” Karp added.

Karp pointed out that while it’s likely that most families will access the new school via Bolinger from West Main or Cruiser, some traffic will come from the west via a connection to Blackhawk Lane.

Saunders said the $475,000 buy-sell agreement for the 18.9-acre Bolinger school site is being drafted this week, and construction of the new school will begin next spring.