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Safe Routes to School projects move forward

Students in Darci Ostermiller’s kindergarten class at Westside Elementary School shield their eyes from the morning sun on the first day of classes Wednesday. The new students are (from left) Chloe Chouinard, Dawson George, Roslyn Slaught, McKenzie Riedinger and Ashton Anderson. Students in Darci Ostermiller’s kindergarten class at Westside Elementary School shield their eyes from the morning sun on the first day of classes Wednesday. The new students are (from left) Chloe Chouinard, Dawson George, Roslyn Slaught, McKenzie Riedinger and Ashton Anderson. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner

Kids who live on the south side of town will soon have safer routes to school.

Construction is slated this fall to improve the intersection at Day Street and Coulter Avenue for pedestrians. Sidewalks also will be built along the north side of Monroe Street where none exist.

The projects are funded by a $179,000 federal Safe Routes to School grant awarded through the Wyoming Transportation Commission. On Aug. 13, the Park County School District No. 1 approved a bid from Triple A Building Services of Powell for the $102,000 construction projects. It was the only bid received.

The Day Street project includes a crossing at the railroad tracks so kids can safely navigate the intersection.

Currently, “we don’t have a way to safely get across the tracks,” said Todd Wilder, coordinator of support services for the school district.

Primarily, the project is geared toward middle school kids who live on the south side of town and must cross Coulter Avenue to get to school, Wilder said. Power poles are right in the middle of where the sidewalk will go, so part of the project is moving those poles.

That project is estimated to cost $69,970. The remaining funds will go toward sidewalks on Monroe Street for students walking to Southside Elementary School. The district will add 767 linear feet of sidewalks that are 4 feet wide. Curbs compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations also will be built.

The two projects are part of a comprehensive Safe Routes to School plan the district adopted several years ago. Funded by the Safe Routes to School grant money awarded in 2009, the $21,000 plan by Inberg-Miller Engineers looked at different strategies in the community.

“We did a walking and bicycling evaluation around town to look at where the traffic issues were for pedestrians,” Wilder said.

The plan included public input, student surveys and feedback from parents. Construction was just one component of the plan.

Wilder said the district also had a lot of discussion with the city of Powell about how officials would enforce school zone laws to help with student safety.

In addition, the plan looked at education and encouragement for students to use safe routes, as well as periodic evaluations.

“It’s a strategic plan in nature because it bridges way beyond what the funding allows,” Wilder said.

While the plan identified ways to make school routes safer, the $179,000 grant funding wasn’t enough to implement the full plan.

“With the statewide office’s encouragement, we tasked Inberg-Miller to engineer more than what our budget was so we would have a pathway to follow in the future,” Wilder said. “That was under the expectation that there would be further grant money.

“If we had known that there wasn’t going to be future grant money, we wouldn’t have spent so much on engineering and more on the actual work.”

Several years ago, when the plan was first drafted, there was the notion or expectation that more grants would be provided through the Safe Routes to School program under the current federal administration, he said.

“Those grants monies went away,” Wilder said.

The district is planning to install flashing lights at intersections around Southside, but that money will come from the state’s major maintenance funds for school safety.

The district’s Safe Routes to School plan is still in place and available should more money be available in the future.

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