Rosa Favela is a 15-year-old freshman at Walnut Springs High School. Before sidewalks were installed in Walnut Springs, Rosa rarely walked to school.
Now, she enjoys her frequent walks to the campus thanks to the Safe Routes to School grant her town received.
Walnut Springs was awarded $409,748 in 2007. The grant has had a visible and positive impact on students and the community, city officials said.
Walnut Springs City Secretary Kay Offutt sees students walk to and from school daily from her office window.
“We have watched students use the sidewalks as soon as parts were completed,” Offutt said.
The federally funded Safe Routes to School program provides all of the cost to upgrade sidewalks, crossings and bicycle facilities to create safe routes for students who walk or ride bicycles to school. Glen Rose plans to submit a grant application for the program as well.
The construction in Walnut Springs is projected to be completed in the next three to four months. The funding has allowed Walnut Springs to update sidewalks, pedestrian bridges and school zones with proper flashers.
The city of Hico received a similar grant in 2007 and has used it to update the sidewalks, crosswalks and regulation signs in the area with a budget of $245,000.
Hico ISD Superintendent Bill Tarleton feels the completed updates have been beneficial to the community and specifically to the safety of the students. Tarleton went on to say that the routes to school are much safer than before.
“It’s hard to tell if there is actually an increase in the number of students using them, but it definitely makes it safer for the students and the general public to walk those routes,” Tarleton said.
Glen Rose is currently in the process of applying for the Safe Routes to School grant with help from Gandolf Burrus of Grant Development Services in Austin. The city, county and school district earlier this year approved pursuing the project.
Glen Rose is eligible for $500,000 per campus — with the exception of the high school — for a total of $1.5 million. The Texas Dept. of Transportation also will provide an additional $110,000 to $125,000 to cover engineering, administration and environmental assessment.
The program's first phase will be to assess existing routes and devise a plan for improvements. That process will take six to eight months. Then the assessment and plan will be submitted to TxDoT for approval.
The grant application would be submitted in 2012.
“The city’s next step is to get the needed property,” City Superintendent Ronald Bruce said.
Additionally, Grant Development Services is working on mapping out intended construction areas for sidewalks and crosswalks, with a specific plan for crossing busy U.S. Highway 67.
Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said his main concern is getting kids to and from school safely.
Rotan currently is researching school crossing zones and believes crossing Highway 67 will be the greatest challenge due to the changes that would be required to reduce the current high volume, speed and traffic conditions.
“A school crossing zone and slowing traffic down to 20 miles per hour would help ensure safety,” Rotan said.
The success of surrounding areas with the grant and the safety improvements in those towns could bring similar benefits to students and parents in Glen Rose.
Kathryn McCravey is a graduate of Glen Rose High School and is an Interdisciplinary Studies major at Tarleton State University.