WEST JORDAN — Hundreds of elementary students can no longer walk or bike to school now that a pedestrian bridge has been removed as part of ongoing construction on Bangerter Highway.
So UDOT has opted to bring out the buses.
The Utah Department of Transportation established a temporary bus service at Oquirrh Elementary, 7165 S. 3285 West, to provide safe transportation to and from school for kids who live west of the highway.
"There’s nothing more important than making sure these kids get to and from school safely," UDOT spokesman John Gleason said. "Construction can be very inconvenient. We want to minimize that inconvenience as much as possible."
Last year, nearly 320 elementary school kids walked or biked to school using a pedestrian bridge that stretched across Bangerter Highway. That bridge was removed earlier this year to make room for a new overpass at 7000 South.
Another pedestrian bridge is being built at the same spot as part of the project, but for now it's inaccessible.
Bus drivers from the West Jordan School District staff four color-coded buses used for the temporary bus service. Each elementary student was given a colored bracelet to wear on their wrist or backpack so teachers can make sure everyone gets on the correct bus to go home.
"We had some parents who were very nervous," Oquirrh Principal Mandy Thurman said. "But I think now everybody’s pretty excited about it."
Jill Burton lives 1.2 miles away from Oquirrh Elementary and usually drives her 7-year-old daughter to school, she said, but the transition to catching a bus before and after school was "a bit rocky at first."
"(My daughter) was really excited, and she wanted to ride the bus," Burton said, "and I was really nervous to let her ride the bus. But it’s been really nice to just walk out, down the street a little bit, and put her on."
Burton's daughter, Grace, said she enjoys sitting in the back of the bus and chatting with her friends on the ride home.
"I like it a lot because I’ve never been on a bus before on the way to school. I think it’s a fun experience," she said.
One of Grace's friends, Abigail Hansen, 7, said sitting by Grace and her brother is the best part of riding the bus.
"It’s actually really fun," Abigail said.
The temporary bus service will end when the construction project is complete in about two months, UDOT officials said.
"I’m really going to miss it when it goes away," Burton said.