A safer walk to school

EAST PALESTINE – A state agency has agreed yet again to cover the cost of improving traffic-related safety for those getting to and from East Palestine schools.

The village was notified recently it was approved for a $341,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.

The 100 percent grant will pay for sidewalks on Thomas, East, North Walnut and West Grant streets, and existing sidewalk enhancements in that area.

The village was in the one-third of applicants accepted statewide for the funding during this round of grants, according to a letter to Village Manager Pete Monteleone from SRTS Program Manager Julie Walcoff.

Walcoff also said in the letter projects were ranked based on factors such as proximity to a bicycle or pedestrian crash, traffic speed and percentage of K-8 grade students that are expected to benefit from the program.

About 328 students in those grades attend schools in the complex on West Grant Street, according to the ODOT grant application.

Additional information in the application showed that approximately 13 percent of students walk to school in the morning and 19 percent in the afternoon. Forty to forty-five percent of students come and go from the complex either by school bus or a family vehicle in the morning and afternoon.

The STRS program is geared toward helping communities implement projects and programs that encourage K-8 grade students, including those with disabilities, to walk or ride their bicycle to school safely.

Improvements funded through the program are targeted at reducing speeds and potential conflicts with motor vehicle traffic and allow for fully accessible crossings, walkways, trails and bikeways, according to information available at www.dot.state.oh.us.

SRTS funding was awarded to the village a few years ago for the new sidewalk and improvements in the area of West Street.

Monteleone said the new funding is extending that project. The village had applied for the funding last year.

“It will be a great enhancement to the area around the school,” he said.

The village will receive construction funds in fiscal year 2016, Walcoff said in the letter.

She also said pedestrian activated signals are targeted for two locations on Market Street, although that has not been finalized yet.

The improvements are some of the many village officials and local law enforcement have planned for the school complex area over the coming years.

Monteleone, Mayor Margo Zuch, Finance Director Traci Thompson, Police Chief Kevin Dickey, officer Brian Moore, and Board of Education member Ron Novak met with ODOT officials and MS Consultants in January to discuss options available through the SRTS program.