Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Group to seek 2nd grant for Safe Routes to Schools

May 24, 2007

Local representatives are setting their sights high and will seek a grant of up to a quarter of a million dollars to fund improvements under the federal government's Safe Routes to School program.

Lansing schoolteacher Mary Alice Schroeger, the district's grant writer, presented plans for the second phase of the grant program last week to the Lansing City Council. The second phase would continue work started under a nearly $14,000 grant the district received in October.

"Because we were awarded phase I grant it positioned us well for a phase II grant," Schroeger said.

Receipt of the grant is contingent on a continued city and school district partnership, she said. The top award allowed under the program is $250,000.

Schroeger said the phase II grant is 100 percent reimbursable from the federal government, but requires the school district to partner with the city. The second phase of the grant includes phase one plus engineering.

The city must first draft a resolution before the Safe Routes to School task force creates a draft. The task force will present its draft to the city in July.

Schroeger said the plan started as a partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation last year when the district was awarded a phase I grant. The program, administered by the Kansas Department of Transportation, was created in 2006 under the federal transportation bill SAFETEA-LU. It was designed to encourage more students to walk or bike to school and to facilitate projects that would reduce traffic congestion and air pollution near schools and improve safety.

The city of Lansing last year entered into an agreement with the school district to fund the plan, which targets planning and educational aspects of pedestrian and biking facilities for areas within two miles of a target school. In its second phase, public improvements such as trails and sidewalks would gain funding.

Shroeger said Kansas will receive $1 million each year for five years from the federal government to put toward the program.

"They gave us a pot of money to do the planning and it applies to phase II monies," she said. "It's a 100 percent reimbursable grant; we have to spend money and are reimbursed from the state."

Phase I funding helped create a 25-member task force that began meeting May 2, Schroeger said. Three groups within the task force discussed playgrounds, walking and biking issues and another engineering. A K-8 survey also was conducted along with bikeability and walkability checks, she said. KDOT will do a more precise data check that will include a land plan.

"We are interesting to KDOT because we have the elementary school on the other side of the highway from the middle school," she said.

Council member Don Studnicka asked Schroeger about the high school. But Schroeger said the federal program won't allow for any improvements around the high school, although she said Lansing is in an interesting situation since the high school is right next to the elementary school.

She said any work on the high school would have to be done by the city.

Studnicka asked how many high school students would walk or bike to school.

"Most students, once they reach the magic age of 14 around here, they drive," he said.

"I myself was a biker until I was 16 and then I drove to high school," Schroeger said. "The fact of the matter is I walk for recreation now, it's not just about walking to school, but about creating a healthy lifestyle. Federal outcomes are focused on reducing air pollution, personal health for everyone in the community and traffic congestion."

The task force will also have a work session on May 31, where members will discuss data from KDOT surveys, walkability and bikeability results and will start making recommendations to the city, Schroeger said.

"If you decide to partner with us we will need a resolution from the council to include with the grant proposal," she said.

A safety audit will be conducted mid-June.

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