More questions than answers remain about what sort of improvements to Bolinger Road will be required before Belgrade’s new elementary school opens there in 2021.

The results of a new study indicate that increased traffic generated by the school may require the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Main Street and Bolinger Road sooner than originally anticipated, according to Jason Karp, Belgrade’s planning director. 

If that ends up being the case, the cost “would for sure exceed the initial estimate” budgeted for Bolinger Road improvements as part of the school’s construction, said Jay Bates, school district clerk and finance director.

Bryan Tate, a construction consultant representing the Belgrade School District on the new elementary school, told the school board at its meeting on Monday that it is too soon to know exactly what may required in light of the study. He told the Belgrade News that while a traffic signal “is one of several options we have, it’s premature to say that the project is going to require a traffic light.”

Even before the traffic study was completed, the district and other agencies were considering multiple options for Bolinger Road improvements. New subdivisions are planned in the area neighboring the new school, so developers of those projects eventually will be required to help foot the bill for Bolinger Road construction. School and city officials have been trying to decide whether it makes sense — and is affordable — for the district to build the road to its final design configuration at the outset, with the understanding that it would be reimbursed by residential developers later, or whether to build a less complete project that would have to be improved later.

Even before the latest traffic study suggested that a traffic light might be required, multiple agencies have been working together to consider the options, and Tate said that the school district and the city are continuing to work effectively together to come up with the best solution. He said that while “a traffic light is one option, it’s not the only option.”

Some alternatives would include improving access to the school from other roads than Main Street. One idea that has been mentioned is connecting Cruiser Lane all the way through to Bolinger, Bates said.

While the school district recognized that Bolinger Road improvements would be expensive and thus budgeted significant money accordingly, Tate said, he emphasized that finding the most cost-effective option remains a priority.

“We want the economics to have a seat at the table,’ he said.