Guardrail installation: ‘It makes it a safer campus for us’

Local officials pose for a picture next to the guardrail along U.S. Highway 278 West down the perimeter of the West Elementary School campus. Pictured are (left to right) Cullman City Councilman David Moss, ALDOT North Region Engineer Curtis Vincent, Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, West Elementary Principal Dr. Jay Page, Cullman City Councilman Andy Page, Cullman City Council President Jenny Folsom, Sen. Garlan Gudger, Cullman City Councilman Johnny Cook and Cullman City Councilman Clint Hollingsworth. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. –  A guardrail was installed this past year along U.S. Highway 278 West down the perimeter of the West Elementary School campus, with the aim of protecting the campus and the students, faculty and staff from any traffic mishaps on the busy roadway. Wednesday morning, local officials gathered outside the school to mark the installation and comment on its importance.

Among the officials on hand were Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, West Elementary Principal Dr. Jay Page, Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) North Region Engineer Curtis Vincent and the Cullman City Council.

Jacobs praised all the parties involved with the project, saying, “The installation of this guardrail was the result of cooperation and teamwork between the City of Cullman, the school board and school officials, our state legislators and ALDOT. We are so thankful to everyone involved because this new guardrail will make the West Elementary School campus safer for the students and faculty.”

“It makes it a safer campus for us,” said Page. “Obviously, we’re along a pretty busy highway; we’re pretty close to it and some of our buildings are close to it. We had the event where a good-sized pick-up truck came across the highway and hit the school. We had that area as a playground area and break area for our students, so having the guardrail there, we think is going to give us more protection we can use in that area for our students.”

Page said talks about installing the guardrail started back in 2018, after the incident with the truck.

“It first started, it was June of 2018,” he said. “I began having conversations with (Cullman City Schools Superintendent) Dr. (Susan) Patterson and eventually Mayor Jacobs. About August of that year, they requested to ALDOT, to Mr. Vincent, about looking into feasibility of a guardrail, so that process kind of went back and forth into the fall. He talked to me about concerns and he would tell what ALDOT could do and what they’d be able to do and then eventually, Senator Gudger, we contacted his office and they became involved and kind of advocated for us and came out and looked at what our concerns were. I’d say all of that was maybe a six- or seven-month process and then we were in line to have the guardrail put up. We’ve had the guardrail up for about 10 or 11 months, we’ve had it up for a pretty good while.”

Vincent shared, “ALDOT’s concerned for the safety of traveling motorists on our roadways. We had a concern here for the safety of the children at this school, so we were able to partner with the school to do something that benefited both. The City of Cullman stepped up, helped provide the funding to make it a safer roadway, and we’re appreciative of that.”

He echoed Jacobs and Page, “It’s something to provide a level of safety for the school. When you have a school this close to a major highway there’s always that concern. Even though there’s a fence and other obstacles that might keep a vehicle from going into the area, this guardrail just provides another level of safety and ensures Dr. Page, the parents of students that ‘Hey, there’s something there to protect my children for the roadway,’ so it’s good. ALDOT appreciates the cooperation and leadership of both Senator Gudger, Mayor Jacobs and Dr. Page in providing safety on our state routes within the Cullman area and especially around the city schools.”

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ALDOT North Region Engineer Curtis Vincent and West Elementary Principal Dr. Jay Page share a conversation Wednesday morning. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)