By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Capt. Stacy Karis readily admits that the village lacks a strong bike-safety program, but is hopeful that will soon change.
By the start of the next school year, the Safe Routes to School Program, part of the Ohio Department of Transportation, will have funded the construction of a $442,000 project designed to improve walking and biking safety and access to the Lowellville school complex, 52 Rocket Place.
And perhaps by Bike Helmet Safety Week, which is May 9-18, up to 110 children in the village may also have new helmets, provided by a grant from the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“We just want to promote bike safety, and just get the awareness out there,” said Karis, the village’s school-resource officer. “We want to start the kids at an early age wearing them.”
Karis added that she was prompted to apply for the grant after noticing the large number of residents, particularly children, who ride bikes in the village. Though traffic typically is minimal, many safety concerns still exist for those who are riding to and from school, or on the Stavich Bike Trail, or recreationally around the village, Karis said.
If approved, the grant mainly would provide helmets for children between age 6 and 11, but also for those between 3 and 6 as well as 11 and older. Karis applied for the grant last week, and said she’ll likely be notified of the outcome by April 3.
Bidding for the village’s Safe Routes to School project will start shortly afterward, in mid-May, said Mayor James Iudiciani Sr. He added that construction will begin around the time school lets out in June, and that it will last “a couple of months at most.”
“The grant is to get kids to exercise, and to walk and ride their bikes to school versus driving there,” Iudiciani said, noting that the village was approved for the funding in May 2012. “It’s always nice when we can partner with the school system, and make it safer.”
As part of the Safe Routes to School Program, sidewalks on the north side of Wood Street will be removed and replaced, all the way from the driveway of the senior housing complex to the intersection of Youngstown-Lowellville Road. On the south side of Wood Street, the sidewalks also will be removed and replaced from a point east of North Avenue to Youngstown-Lowellville Road.
On Youngstown-Lowellville Road, new school-crossing warning signs will be installed, and crosswalks will be painted on the roadways at several locations, while Ralph Conti Drive will receive a new sidewalk between the baseball fields and the roadway.
Finally, a new sidewalk will be constructed on the north side of Walnut Street, from Youngstown-Lowellville Road to the existing sidewalk on the bridge over Pine Hollow Creek. This portion of the project required the acquisition of 0.271 acre of temporary right-of-way from 18 separate parcels and 13 different owners, Iudiciani said.
He added that he’s heard mostly positive comments about the project from residents, and in particular from homeowners whose sidewalks will be replaced through the Safe Routes to School Program.
The city of Struthers also is reapplying for a Safe Routes to School Program grant, said Mayor Terry Stocker. He added that the city applied for one a few years ago, citing poor conditions of sidewalks and a lack of sidewalks, but was not selected to receive funding.
This time, the city is enlisting the help of ODOT in the creation of its school travel plan, which features information on student travel, including any possible issues that hinder students’ ability to safely walk or bike to school. It’s a required component of the Safe Routes to School application.
“There are a lot of kids who walk to school in Struthers — probably more than a lot of the other school districts,” Stocker said. “We’re trying to make it so it’s safer for the children to commute back and forth to school, especially if they’re walking or biking.”
If approved for the Safe Routes to School Program grant, the city likely wouldn’t see any construction until 2015 at the earliest, Stocker said.