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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Safe Routes To School Grant Still Pending

FTM file. 
The City of Fort Thomas has been taking an more active role in pedestrian safety over the last six months.

The city explored adding illuminated crosswalks in five areas near schools, but were denied four of those locations by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet because they were on state routes.

RELATED: KTC Denies Four Crosswalk Locations in Fort Thomas 

The city also issued a plea for motorists to start paying attention to those pedestrians and bicyclists by promoting their "Pedestrian Safety Initiative."

RELATED: City of Fort Thomas To Motorists: Start Paying Attention to Crosswalks 

The Safe Route To Schools grant has been filed once again by the city and recently at a Public Works committee meeting, City Administrative Officer, Ron Dill, said the grant was still pending. This grant would take care of creating a sidewalk on the north side of N. Fort Thomas Avenue, essentially creating a sidewalk on one side of the street from Barrett Drive/Covert Run to the city limits in Dayton.

“Construction of sidewalks like this falls outside of the sidewalk improvement program that mirrors our street repair program,” said Dill. “It’s more of a capital improvement. We always said that if we can secure some outside resources, then we will consider that construction.” 

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That outside resource is the Safe Routes to Schools grant, which has been filed multiple times over the years and most recently in September of this year. Southbank Partners helped the city file the grant for $600,000. It’s been estimated that the construction of the sidewalk, which would be on the inbound lane of N. Fort Thomas Avenue towards the center of town, could cost nearly $1,000,000.

The Safe Routes To School initiative is a federal program that the state administers and has not been suspended by state budgetary cuts.

As background from 2005 to 2012, Safe Routes to School initiatives were funded through a standalone federal Safe Routes to school program. This program provided more than $1 billion in funding in all states to support infrastructure improvements and programming to make it safer for children to walk and bicycle to and from school.

In June 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill.  This legislation made significant changes to funding for bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School. The federal Safe Routes to School program was combined with other bicycling and walking programs into a program called Transportation Alternatives. Safe Routes to School projects are called out as being eligible for Transportation Alternatives, but no minimum funding level is required. This funding stream was locked in for five additional years--with some changes--when Congress passed a new transportation law, the FAST Act, in December 2015.

While the name may have changed at the federal level, most of the program did not change, but it was not renewed in 2016 in the FAST Act. There are still road projects in Kentucky that are ongoing, but no new ones are being created since the program is no longer funded or authorized at federal level.

"The construction on N. Fort Thomas Avenue would include curbing, drainage and we could have to deal with multiple rights-of-way issues,” said Dill. “At this point the city hasn’t done any advanced engineering on the project. It’s all been conceptual.”

Mayor Eric Haas remembers investigating the issue during his time as a city councilman over a decade ago.

"I remember we had asked those residents that would be affected if they wanted that sidewalk and many of them didn’t want it. They said they liked the rural setting without the sidewalks. They liked the aesthetics,” he said.

Dill said that the city had since petitioned the neighbors and that there was more of a consensus that would be in favor of the construction.

“That information was pretty dated,” he said. “We have reached out more recently and there’s been more of an appetite for this. The city has actually received a petition from a majority of those residents, but it’s not all-inclusive, some do oppose it.”

Dill said that there are other streets past the intersection of Barrett Drive and Covert Run that also do not have sidewalks: Stacy Lane, Walker Road, Gregory Drive or Stanbury Ridge to name a few.

“We’re a very walkable city,” said Councilman John Slawter. “Whatever we can do to move this forward, we should probably continue to push for.”

"It's long overdue," said Councilman Ken Bowman, who is also the Chair of the Public Works Committee. "I think sentiment has changed since the 1980's and if a new survey were given to those residents on N. Fort Thomas a majority would want a sidewalk."

“It comes up often and we just haven’t been able to ask that question to our residents because to date, there’s been no outside funding available,” said Dill.

1 comment:

  1. Are putting sidewalks on Covert Run on the radar? There are soooo many bicycles, joggers and walkers on that road. Scary......