September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Long-delayed Sheffield walking path between schools is a go

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SHEFFIELD — Hopefully, construction of the Safe Routes to School project will go smoother than getting the approval for it.

“It’s been a literal nightmare,” Sheffield Mayor John Hunter said Thursday after Village Council members unanimously approved a $425,000 contract with the Terminal Ready-Mix construction company to build the path.

The approximately 1.5-mile, five-foot wide concrete path will begin at Knollwood Elementary School at 4795 Oster Road and run to Brookside High School at 1812 Harris Road and connect to the sidewalk on Colorado Avenue.

Safe Routes to School is a U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration initiative begun in 2005 to reduce accidents, air pollution and traffic congestion while encouraging walking and bicycling.

Hunter, mayor since 2008, said the previous administration obtained project applications, but never turned them in to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which funnels federal taxpayer project money to local communities. Village officials applied in 2009 and, in May 2010, were awarded $525,000, which includes $50,000 for engineering costs and $50,000 for safety education.

Hunter said project plans were mistakenly drawn to meet state — rather than federal — standards, causing delays. An 11-month delay was caused by the Norfolk Southern railroad company not signing off on allowing the path to cross over its tracks, he said.

Village officials also were delayed by having to receive federal Environmental Protection Agency approval for cleaning up ditches along the route because of wetlands concerns. Further delays were caused by getting approval from Century Tel, the FirstEnergy Corp. and Time Warner Cable for removal of 15 to 18 utility poles along the route.

While the money has been approved for the project, a special meeting had to be called Thursday to approve the construction contract before the Tuesday deadline from ODOT.

Construction is expected to begin late next month and be finished by November. Hunter said he and other officials hope the path will reduce the potential for bicyclists or pedestrians being struck, particularly when school gets out.

A middle school student was seriously injured in 2009 on his way to football practice when struck by a vehicle along the route, and there have been numerous near-misses, he said.

“This is a big deal for us that we’re finally getting things done,” Hunter said.

Safe routes

Sheffield is the latest Lorain County community to build a Safe Routes to School path. Last year, Amherst, Elyria, Oberlin and Vermilion all shared $1.5 million in federal taxpayer grant money for projects designed to reduce accidents, pollution and traffic congestion. The program aims to increase the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, who are often vulnerable to being struck by traffic.

In 2009:

  • 4,092 pedestrians, including 85 in Ohio, were killed in traffic accidents, accounting for 12 percent of all traffic fatalities. The death toll decreased 7 percent from 2008.
  • About 20 percent of the children between 5 and 9 years old killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
  • Forty percent of all deaths involving pedestrians under 16 years old occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Alcohol use, either by the driver or pedestrian, was reported in 48 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.
  • The 630 bicyclists killed, including 19 in Ohio, accounted for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.