The city of Braidwood and the Reed-Custer School District are hoping to get their hands on some federal dollars that will help create safe passage for students on their way to school. City finance director Lisa Heglund announced on Sept. 28 that the city and school district had filed a joint application for funds through the federally funded Safe Routes to School program.
Heglund said the city and school district submitted the first phase of the grant application last week. Next up will be public comment on the issue.
"We ask that the public come in and give us feedback about the sidewalks in town, the sidewalk location, where they'd like to see additional sidewalks," Heglund said.
The city and schools would also look for input on problems on existing sidewalks.
The issues surrounding students' safety while walking to school is part of a nationwide healthy initiative to encourage children to walk or bike to school. The Illinois Safe Routes to School Program is administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and provides funding with three main goals:
Encourage all children, even those with disabilities, to walk or bike to school.
Make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
Facilitate planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of both public and private primary and middle schools.
Illinois Safe Routes to School funds both infrastructure improvements to the physical environment as well as non-infrastructure projects. Projects are funded at 100 percent with no local match required.
Heglund said the sidewalk grant applied for would add sidewalks on Second and Third Streets from Center to Mitchell, which will fill in gaps in existing sidewalks. The sidewalk grant will also place a walkway on Kennedy Road from Kenard to Hickory.
"That will give us on a pretty busy street, a nice sidewalk there," Heglund said.
Included in the grant application is a request for a speed trailer. That request was made on the suggestion of acting Police Chief Brandon Myers, who said that a trailer could be an invaluable tool to get drivers to slow down.
"The speed trailer would be utilized in school zones to illuminate a driver's speed," Myers said. "I believe that many drivers simply are not paying attention to how fast they are driving. A speed trailer posted in the school zone will display a driver's speed in an effort to gain their attention. The ultimate goal is to provide a safer environment for the students walking to school through voluntary compliance of school zone speed limits."
Heglund said that the city and school district have asked for an approximate $250,000 for the sidewalks, the most allowed by a single application. Public comment is also part of the process.
"The main purpose of bringing this up is to let [the city] know that we are applying for this money, but also to get input from the public as to areas where they'd like to see sidewalks," Heglund said.
Public comments will be heard during the next City Council meeting on Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., at City Hall.
The Safe Routes to School program will provide a total of approximately $15 million around the state in grants for safe school initiatives.