Oregon to apply for Safe Routes to School funds

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday approved an application with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for Safe Routes to School Projects (SRTS).
        ODOT provides financial assistance to local governments for Safe Routes to School Projects.
        Oregon is seeking SRTS funds from ODOT for School Travel Plan Development. The School Travel Plan (STP) is eligible to receive federal transportation funding paid directly through an ODOT task order. If awarded, the city will provide information, develop a team, and work with ODOT on plan development.
        “The plan identifies safety improvements and encourages kids to walk to school,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman.
Connect sidewalks
        Updating the STP will allow the city to apply for funding to fill sidewalk gaps and connect existing sidewalks to the large bike path network. For example, Coy Elementary School is approximately .27 miles from the bike path and two large neighborhoods, but is not connected. Adding sidewalks connecting the neighborhoods and bike path to Coy Elementary would allow those students to safely walk or bike to school. Also, Clay High School does not have sidewalks around it, even though it is in close proximity to neighborhoods and a local restaurant that many students frequent. The bike path connects Clay High School’s campus to the city complex (including ball fields Clay’s teams use), but nearby neighborhoods are not connected, preventing students from commuting by walking or biking safely.
Safety concerns
        There are safety concerns for students walking or biking to school in areas without sidewalks. The roads these schools are on have a speed limit of 35 mph, though many travel 45 mph. The only place for students to walk or bike is on the shoulder of the road. In 2020, a student on a bicycle was in a fatal accident while trying to cross the street in front of Clay High School. The city would like to add safety measures, like pedestrian rapid flashing beacons in front of Clay and safe pedestrian routes to protect students.
        The city first developed an STP in 2007 and completed the first SRTS construction project in the state in 2008.  It consisted of installing sidewalks on Starr Avenue, between Wheeling Street and Coy Road. There was a second SRTS project with construction funding a few years later. The project consisted of sidewalks on Starr Avenue from Coy to Lallendorf, sidewalks on Pickle Road near the new Coy School, and a sidewalk in the Edward Street right of way, from Eastmoreland to Navarre that provided access to children living in nearby apartments.
        The SRTS program has evolved in the last 16 years and the city needs assistance to update its STP to current standards.
        “We definitely need to develop another plan,” said Roman.
        There have not been any SRTS related activities in the community over the last year due to COVID and personnel changes. Previously, there have been walk and bike to school days in the spring as well as “Walking Wednesdays.” The community would like to start the programs again.
        The department of public service will work with Oregon City Schools and Cardinal Stritch as well as departments within the city, like police, to develop and implement the STP. The city will partner with the schools to complete parent surveys and teacher tallys. The department of public service will partner with the police division and their school resource officers in each school for walk and bike to school days, Walking Wednesdays, as well as education for the students in bicycle and pedestrian safety. The police will also target enforcement in school zones. The schools, police and department of public service will all participate in a Safe Routes to School team to help develop the plan.


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