The City of Ithaca and the Ithaca City School District received nearly $300,000 in federal funds in January to improve roadway safety and increase the number of children that walk or bike to school.
The grant, called “Safe Routes to School,” will allow the city to repair and improve road signs, according to a City of Ithaca press release.The grant will also fund programs to make students and parents aware of ways to take advantage of these infrastructure improvements. “[The proposal] has been based on the concept that we need to get kids moving and exercising, and this is the way to do it,” said Margaret Boice, assistant superintendent for business services for the ICSD. Boice said the federal funds will sponsor activities that encourage students to get active on the way to school.For instance, Boice said, the city plans to hold programs such as “Walk to School” week, “Bike to School” week and a “walking school bus,” made up of parent volunteers who will accompany students to school. “A large piece of how effective this project is how comfortable parents feel. If parents feel more comfortable, it has a bearing on what students do,” said Kent Johnson, junior transportation engineer for the City of Ithaca. “Traffic calmed routes” — two-mile-radius areas around each of the three participating school where students can travel safely — will be developed through the installation of traffic humps, speed limit reduction and way-finding signs, and pavement markings, according to the application for the grant. “What we are striving for is to impact the relatively low number of people who are speeding along these streets along school routes,” Johnson said.In addition to reducing the speed limit in certain areas, the city also plans to use the grand to purchase six new street signs, which will electronically display how fast drivers are going.“There will be street signs with flashing lights,” Boice said. “Those seem to be the most effective at slowing people down. We will also get data to see if they are actually slowing down.”Tenatively, the plans for construction will be finalized in 2014 and construction will begin in 2015, according to Johnson.The city will hold forums this year to gain community input on the project. Boice said that “the bulk” of the grant will fund infrastructure upgrades.$50,000 of the grant will support educational initiatives, according to the application for the project.“Once educational programming is in place, hopefully, there will be enough interest to continue,” Johnson said. The grant will also help put into place a “Bike Boulevard Network” — an initiative that the city hopes will make biking easier and safer.The city hopes that the initaitive will encourage students to bike to school and aid the greater Ithaca community, according to Johnson.The grant will cover 90 percent of the funding for the initiative.The city will focus on improving the safety of roads around the Boynton Middle School, Beverly J. Martin Elementary School and Fall Creek Elementary School, according to the application for the project.“With a great collaborative effort with the City of Ithaca, we were able to receive this grant,” Boice said, adding that she hopes to continue collaborating with the city in the future.
Original Author: Jonathan Dawson