Drivers traveling on Osburn Road can expect to see the wheels of more and more school buses going round-and-round in the coming months.
That is because Walker County Schools will soon relocate its transportation center from a fenced lot alongside U.S. Highway 27, across from Greg's Restaurant in Chickamauga, to the former Osburn School playground.
"We had seen the need for awhile and have been planning on this move for about three years," said Chris Jones, director of facilities and operations for the county school system.
This ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) project is estimated to have a price tag of about $2.9 million and will provide maintenance, storage and training facilities for the county's buses and bus drivers.
Site preparation began during the winter holiday break, with earthmoving equipment scraping and grading what for years was the playground for the "big kids" attending Osburn Elementary.
Vacated when Cherokee Ridge Elementary opened, the former Osburn School is now the Advancing Education Center. Its grassy playground was used to store some mothballed buses in recent years, but now is being readied for expanded use.
"The repair and maintenance facility how has two service bays," Jones said. "When complete, the new site will have 4-1/2 bays that will allow servicing both buses and our other service vehicles."
Jones said monthly maintenance and safety inspections are performed on every bus used to cover 89 routes that crisscross the county on a daily basis.
As part of the move, the fleet refueling dock will be relocated as well. And because the buses use diesel fuel —something that will dissolve asphalt — the parking areas will be covered in crushed, rolled and compacted concrete, Jones said.
Having the large open space not only allows parking and servicing all buses at a single location, space in the lower level of the AEC building means drivers will gain a break room, office space and training center.
"The building has been very well maintained," Jones said.