September 3, 2014

Elyria
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Ridgeville wants kids walking to school

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — City schools and City Hall are teaming up in hopes of securing state transportation funds to build sidewalks, add signs and educate schoolchildren about the benefits of walking and riding bikes to school.

City Council approved a resolution this week to apply for just under $500,000 in Ohio Department of Transportation money earmarked for the Safe Routes to School program, which is itself funded by grants from the Federal Highway Administration.

The single largest amount of money, $304,765, would go to install sidewalks around Liberty Elementary School, which suffers from a number of missing sidewalks in the vicinity of the school.

“Sidewalks really eat up a lot of it,” Mayor David Gillock said.

Money would also go to install paved pedestrian and bike pathways to link schools with residential neighborhoods to allow children to get to and from school without having to use sidewalks on busy roads.

The city’s application, which must be submitted by March 1, also asks for money for pathways and other upgrades near Lear North ($27,337) and Wilcox Elementary ($93,060) schools.

The small amount of money sought for Lear North is owing to the fact the building houses first-graders, who do not walk to school, North Ridgeville Schools Superintendent Jim Powell said.

Another $73,612 is being sought for North Ridgeville Middle School for improvements including user-activated rapid flashing beacons, which are amber-colored flashers that alert drivers to pedestrians at intersections lacking traffic signals, or to crosswalks in the middle of city blocks.

Money would also be used to install bike racks and erect other school crossing signs including a user-activated rapid flashing beacon for a midblock crosswalk used by students crossing the city’s single most heavily traveled road.

While the bulk of money would go to infrastructure projects, an estimated $50,000 would be used for educating students about the physical pluses of walking or biking to school as well as safety, according to Powell.

Focusing on children attending kindergarten through the eighth grade, educational efforts are also designed to reduce or prevent childhood obesity by encouraging kids to exercise more.

Part of such educational efforts could include more “walking bus routes” as Powell described them.

“We’ve done a few of these before, where we agree to meet at a certain point where buses drop kids off, and then we walk the rest of the way to a school,” Powell said. “We did three to four of those last year. They’re fun and it teaches kids about how walking to school benefits them physically.”

The city and schools may apply in one of two ways, according to the mayor.

“We have to decide pretty soon on whether to ask for the full amount or 90 percent, which then requires the city to put in 10 percent, or roughly $50,000,” Gillock said.

The city and schools could learn in May whether they are successful with their application, according to Tissy Simon, administrative assistant to Gillock.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.