A Safe Routes to School Travel Plan has been developed through the guidelines of the National Safe Routes to School Program for Fassett Middle School, Starr Elementary School, and Coy Elementary School.
The city last year received a $150,000 Safe Routes to School grant to install sidewalks along Starr Avenue, and down side streets, according to Mayor Marge Brown at a council meeting last Monday.
Construction started Oct. 3 and is expected to be completed by Oct. 30.
The city is now applying for a $240,000 grant for the program.
Public Service Director Paul Roman said there are three main areas that are eligible for the grant, including the Edward Street sidewalk connection, the Pickle Road sidewalk improvements, Phase 1, and the Starr Avenue sidewalk improvements, Phase 2.
“If you were to take Edward Street and extend it south, all the way to Fountain Square Apartments, there’s a paper street where we could get a sidewalk in,” said Roman. “The schools have really requested a walking path in this area. We basically concur that there are kids already walking in that grass area, so it is to provide a safer route. The other area is on Starr Avenue, south side, between Coy and Lallendorf roads. There, the thinking was, there are a few more subdivisions on the south side of Starr. There’s also more right-of-way, which does make a difference in doing these projects.”
The third area on Pickle Road goes from Laura Lane to Coy School.
“We talked about the section on Pickle between Coy and Coy School with the Pickle and Coy intersection improvement project,” said Roman. “So the idea is to look at a sidewalk on the south side of Pickle between Coy and Coy School. Also, on Flo Drive, there is some sidewalk that’s already there, so it would be to connect to that.”
On the other side of Pickle, west of Coy, the city could put sidewalks on both sides of the road between Laura Lane and Coy, as well as fill in a stub up to Laura Lane, said Roman.
“If you think about it, whether or not the school decides some day to look at a walking district, by putting in this small sidewalk at Pickle and Coy, you could take in literally three subdivisions and make that a walking district. That’s really what the Safe Route to School program is all about, to encourage kids to walk and bike to school. We think they would be very successful and we’re hoping we would be considered again for this grant.”
Councilman Bill Myers said the program enhances the neighborhoods.
“It gives us some interconnectivity in areas that provides safety for pedestrians who want to use the sidewalks to transport themselves by bicycle and foot,” said Myers. “As you see these areas get completed, it actually enhances the look of the neighborhoods. It gives us a good image. It really does make us look like we’re moving forward.”
If the city is awarded the grant, the construction would start either next fall or in the spring of 2010, said Roman.
Oregon was one of 15 communities in Ohio to be awarded a Safe Routes to Schools grant from ODOT in the initial round of funding.
The city was successful in getting the first grant, explained Roman, because it asked for funding for construction instead of design.
“The sidewalk on Starr Avenue is the first in the state to use this grant money. But what we’ll find out here is that everyone that got the design money is going to be asking for construction dollars. So we’re going to be competing for a lot more projects,” he said.
Roman said it would be council’s decision on whether to continue the program if the grant is not approved.
“It would be a matter of whether council would chose to order in the sidewalk, and assess it, or whether we would view it as a needed public improvement for pedestrians and pay for it through the city,” said Roman.