Flood damage my change bus routes in Avery County - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Flood damage my change bus routes in Avery County

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NEWLAND, NC (WBTV) -

That huge washout of Highway 194 in Newland could be a major headache once the school year begins in August.

Highway 194 is a major highway in the area and is now shut down between Newland and Elk Park.  The main detour is Blevins Creek Road. It is a winding, narrow two lane road that has suffered flood damage itself.

What's more, the road is not rated for anything over 6 and a half tons. That means large tractor trailers are being kept off of it but will also mean school buses will not be able to use that detour.

"It is all about safety and the limits of that road," said Highway Maintenance Engineer Jerry Combs. The state does allow one bus to pick up the few children who do live on that road but does not want full buses traveling on it. Even so, school officials are asking the state to allow just that.

"We need a total of six buses to use that road," said Avery School system's transportation director Brian King.

Superintendant David Burleson said Highway 194 was originally built more than four decades ago to help traffic from one end of the county get to what was, the new Avery County High School in Newland. 

The purpose was to keep school buses and other drivers off of the curvy, narrow, Blevins Creek Road.  Now, with Highway 194 likely closed until next year sometime, officials want the okay from the DOT to put school buses on it.

"If not, we got a lot of rerouting to do," said Burleson.  As it stands, even with the Blevins Creek Road detour, officials expect at least a half hour to be added to bus rides to and from the Elk Park side of the county. Traffic will be heavy and there's no quick way to navigate the curvy detour road, said officials.

They are asking parents to have patience once school begins August 19th. Routes for buses are already being re-drawn, just in case. Parents will be notified of any changes, said officials.  "Our hope is to use the detour road that's in place now but our priority is to keep our children safe," said Burleson.

As for repairs to Highway 194, officials are indicating it will take many months. One official, who did not want to be named, said in his opinion, it will cost in excess of one million dollars to fix.  No timetable has been set as to when the work will begin.

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