The Safe Routes To School initiative is a federally funded program administrated by the Virginia Department of Transportation. It will provide the City of Waynesboro with funding for a total of eight infrastructure projects to construct sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, walking paths, pedestrian lights, and traffic calming devices near Westwood Hills Elementary School, William Perry Elementary School, Wenonah Elementary School, and Kate Collins Middle School. Engineering for these projects should begin in fall 2012. Construction of these projects should start in 2013.
“It is the City’s intention to improve walking and biking environments near schools to allow safer, easier access for students.” stated Waynesboro Director of Planning, Michael Barnes, upon learning that the City had been awarded the grant. “Waynesboro Public Schools are actively engaged in various programs to educate and encourage students to walk and bike to school. This grant supports that by providing primary infrastructure improvements on and off campus.”
This is the second SRTS grant awarded to Waynesboro. In 2009, the City received a $231,765 pilot program grant for Berkeley Glenn Elementary School for infrastructure projects and for non-infrastructure programs. In addition to numerous educational programs, the grant will construct sidewalks along Lyndhurst Road and Windsor Avenue, and build pedestrian improvements in the Jefferson Street/Lyndhurst Road Intersection. The Berkeley Glenn infrastructure improvements will be completed by summer 2012.
In 2010, based on the success of the Berkeley Glenn pilot program, the City Planning Department working collaboratively with City School Staff, students and parents developed a Travel Plan for the remaining elementary schools and Kate Collins Middle School. A Travel Plan is a required first step before a community can apply for a SRTS grant. Its purpose is to diagnose existing barriers to walking and biking to school and to propose infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects which overcome those barriers. The Travel Plan was completed in May 2011 and it identified 19 potential infrastructure projects. The infrastructure grant request was submitted in June 2011 for 9 of those 19 project. Eight of the projects were successfully awarded in February 2012.
“Healthy, active children are better learners.” said Kathy Gunther, a teacher and the SRTS coordinator of Westwood Hills Elementary, as well as an active walker and a resident living in Waynesboro. “In an effort to promote healthy lifestyles and improved school learning, this grant helps us achieve our goals. Thanks to parents, the community at large and city staff, the entire community, including school students will more easily and safely move about our city.”
VDOT awarded $5.9 million in SRTS grants this year to 28 schools in 18 communities from across the Commonwealth. These grants are designed to make it safer and more convenient for children in kindergarten through eighth grade to walk and bike to school. The funding will support projects including new sidewalks, bicycle parking, bike/ped crossing improvements, and multi-use trails.