St. Clair County neighborhood road no longer safe enough for school bus

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ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A deteriorating road in one St. Clair County neighborhood is preventing the school bus from finishing a route due to safety concerns.

The damage to Legacy Drive in the Legacy Springs neighborhood of Odenville forced school district leaders to make the change to the bus route this week.

“We can see the shoulders are starting to erode even further, the asphalt is cracking, and we are seeing some sinkholes develop, so at that point we made the determination yesterday to make sure that effective this morning, we would no longer run the bus route up that hill,” said Mike Howard, Superintendent with the St. Clair County Board of Education.

Residents have been down this long and bumpy road before. Last year, the school bus also stopped going up the hill due to similar road conditions. Neighbors said the repair seemed to be a temporary fix.

“We hear things that you are working on it, but it is not enough to alleviate any fears that we have right now, and they just need to be in communication with us,” said Dianna Torbert, who lives in the neighborhood.

Torbert’s child is in kindergarten and loves to ride the bus. She will now be forced to drive to pick him up from the bottom of the hill. Other families may not be as fortunate.

“I know that I have heard some other neighbors talk about well, I am not at home, so what am I supposed to do,” Torbert continued. “I cannot imagine walking that hill and I certainly wouldn’t want my son walking it, at least by himself or without me there.”

Other neighbors are concerned about first responders getting to the back part of the neighborhood.

“Our main concern is if emergency responding vehicles cannot get up the hill. If we had a family emergency, it’s deteriorated so bad that it is questionable if emergency vehicles could get up and down at this point,” said Heather Robertson, who recently gave birth to a new child.

Robertson said she has to drive even slower than usual because of the bumps.

“I have my newborn infant in the backseat and I have to go so slow so his head doesn’t slam on the bump, because it is pretty severe, so it is pretty bothersome,” said Robertson.

According to Superintendent Howard, approximately 90 students live on the other side of the hill. He understands parents’ frustrations, but said safety is the district’s number one priority.

“Buses are very heavy and when you are transporting 45-70 kids per load and the bus is tipping one way or another, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Howard said.

The Legacy Springs neighborhood lies in Odenville city limits, but is zoned for Springville Schools in the St. Clair County School District.

Howard said it is up to the developer to fix the road.

“We’ve reached out to the developer, because the city doesn’t really own it because it is not a public street and it sits in the subdivision, so we are kind of at the mercy of the developer, but they understand that they can’t run buses,” Howard said.

Odenville Mayor Buck Christian identified the developer as Craig Atchison from Texas. Christian said Atchison had been in touch about repairs.

Atchison provided this response to CBS 42.

After taking over the development and sales of the unsold and undeveloped portions of Legacy Springs, Legacy Odenville LLC, the current developer, has spent over $200,000 repairing and replacing portions of deficient subdivision roads. The developer worked with a geotechnical firm and a civil engineering firm in 2018 to investigate and identify the apparent road and subgrade soil issues along with developing a road repair plan. The road repair plan was reviewed by the city and the work was performed. It has recently become apparent that the subsurface soils have become receptible to shifting with the high volume groundwater and rainwater runoff. The geotech and road construction firms are currently working on designing a road repair plan that identifies and alleviates the subsoil erosion in order to provide a permanent stabilized road as soon as possible. Having stable subdivision roadways in the Legacy Springs subdivision is a high priority to the developer.

Neighbors hope their concerns are heard loud and clear.

“I would just want him to know that, ‘hey you might not be here in Alabama, but we are important and you need to help us out because it is what your job is and what your responsibility is,'” Torbert said.

Stay with CBS 42 for updates.

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