Students begin their respective walks home after a day at Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary. Pending a review by the Colorado Department of Transportation those after school commutes may be a little safer as plans are in place to construct new sidewalks in the vicinity of the CMS and Sandrock Elementary campus.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Students begin their respective walks home after a day at Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary. Pending a review by the Colorado Department of Transportation those after school commutes may be a little safer as plans are in place to construct new sidewalks in the vicinity of the CMS and Sandrock Elementary campus.

Safe Routes to School sidewalk improvements waiting on CDOT review

Engineer hosts project open house Thursday in Craig

Quotable...

“I’m thrilled. I am so excited that finally we are moving in the direction of getting children onto a safe sidewalk and off of the street.”

Craig resident Beckey Grabowski, Safe Routes to School grant writer, about plans to construct sidewalks near Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary School.

— The engineering is done, the plans are set and the money has been awarded. The only thing keeping Craig children from enjoying a safe route to school is a Colorado Department of Transportation review.

On Thursday, Craig City Manager Jim Ferree and Anne Pagano, senior associate of Drexel, Barrell & Co., hosted an open house in Craig City Council chambers to provide an update about plans to construct sidewalks near Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary School.

The project, funded by $188,905 in federal grant money filtered through CDOT’s Safe Routes to School program, will provide for the construction of five new 6-foot-wide sidewalks and is estimated to take six to eight weeks to complete, Pagano said.

She hopes to begin construction this summer and be done before the beginning of the next school year, but the plans need to be approved by CDOT before the city can go out to bid for contractors.

“I’ve never been through this kind of a grant process before, and I’m a little unclear about how long the CDOT review process will take,” Ferree said. “As soon as we get word from them, we’ll begin construction.”

Craig resident Beckey Grabowski wrote the grant on behalf of the Moffat County School District during fall 2009. Because the grant is available only to political subdivisions of the state, including cities and counties, the city of Craig submitted the application.

Ferree received word the grant application was successful last August.

It was a huge win, Grabowski said, considering the city and the school district first submitted an application for the grant in 2007.

The key to their success the second time around was getting the entire community involved in the process.

In addition to submitting photographs of children walking in the street on their way to school, Grabowski said she submitted data with the application from surveys of more than 600 parents.

The surveys focused on two primary questions — how do your kids get to school and what concerns keep you from allowing your children to walk or ride their bike to school?

According to those surveys, which were completed in 2009, 74 percent of parents cited high traffic volume as their No. 1 reason for driving their children to school. Traffic speed, lack of sidewalks and questionable safety at intersections and crosswalks also were cited as parent concerns, according to the surveys.

Of the more than 900 students at Craig Middle School and Sandrock Elementary School, 44 percent said their parents drive them to school, 22 percent said they walk or ride a bike and 34 percent said they take the school bus, the surveys said.

Considering 52 percent of parents also reported living within 1 mile of the schools, Grabowski hopes student commuter trends will change once the project is completed.

Specifically, Grabowski said, one of the goals for the project is to get the ratio between students who are driven, 394, and those who walk or ride a bike, 200, to flip-flop.

“I’m thrilled,” Grabowski said Thursday in response to seeing her hard work begin to come to fruition. “I am so excited that finally we are moving in the direction of getting children onto a safe sidewalk and off of the street.”

The Safe Routes to School grant does not require any matching funds from the city or the school district, and it will pay for all of the engineering and construction costs, Ferree said.

The city could incur expenses for utility relocation, such as power poles and fire hydrants, but Ferree said those cost estimates won’t be determined until after CDOT’s review of the plans.

Specifically, sidewalks have been designed for the south side of 10th Street between Washington and Colorado; the east side of Russell Street between Eighth and Ninth streets; the west side of Rose Street between Eighth and Ninth streets; the east side of Breeze Street between Ninth and 10th streets; and the east side of Tucker Street between Eighth and Ninth streets.

Those streets encompass about half of the original design plan.

Although the city may apply for another grant to complete the project near CMS and Sandrock Elementary, Ferree said principals at other Craig schools have voiced a need for sidewalks near their campuses, as well.

The city likely will put in for another grant to improve routes near other schools before it attempts to complete its plan at CMS and Sandrock Elementary, Ferree said.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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