PARKERSBURG - City officials have been awarded $112,000 in federal funds to improve sidewalks near Franklin Elementary Center, and another sidewalks project is expected to begin this summer near Fairplains Elementary School.
The Safe Routes to Schools grant was part of nearly $1 million in grants awarded this week through the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and the West Virginia Division of Highways.
The West Virginia Safe Routes to School grant program is part of a national program funded by the Federal Highway Administration to substantially improve the safety of children as they walk or bicycle to school. Projects include upgrading current school crossing systems, improving or creating ADA compliant sidewalks in the area of the schools, or creating safer access to a school's walking path and playground equipment.
Development Director Ann Conageski said the city has received four Safe Routes grants, each allowing the city to do about $100,000 of infrastructure repair and replacements for schools.
Work on a Safe Routes to Schools project near Fairplains Elementary School on Broadway Avenue will likely begin this summer, and Mayor Bob Newell said he expects the city will finish an ongoing Safe Routes project near McKinley Elementary School this year as well.
In 2011, the city completed a Safe Routes to Schools project near Jefferson Elementary Center. About $100,000 was spent on infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks, curbs, crosswalks and signage, while more than $10,000 in grant money was awarded for educational and monitoring programs at the school.
Conageski said each of the grants has included $10,000-$12,000 for the schools to use to buy supplies and support educational activities to encourage students to walk to school.
Even so, both Conageski and Newell said the grants program allows the city to help both the schools and the communities by improving neighborhood infrastructure.
"It's a nice program," Newell said. "They are good projects."