The Glen Rose City Council on Monday night agreed to take the first steps to make it safer for students to walk or bike to school.

A federal and state Department of Transportation program called “Safe Routes to School” provides grants to help build sidewalks, crosswalks and bicycle facilities. In 2009 the Texas Transportation Commission approved $54.1 million to fund 200 projects in more than 73 communities.

Glen Rose elementary, intermediate and junior high schools could be eligible for up to $200,000 per school. High schools are not included in the program.

Gandolf Burrus, president of Austin-based Grant Development Services, a firm that helps entities secure grants, told the council that Safe Routes to School will provide a city $500,000 in construction funds to build sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic-calming devices. The state adds another $110,000 to $120,000, he said.

Under the program, cities must develop a masterplan and submit an application. Burrus' firm worked with the City of Walnut Springs, which received a grant to help it build sidewalks along the main route through town, State Highway 144, and to the school.

Grant Development Services will develop three plans and three applications for $9,500. The Glen Rose Independent School District and Somervell County have expressed interest in participating in the program, meaning the cost would be split three ways. But because the sidewalks would be on city property, the contract must be with the city, Burrus said.

“We will identify where the students are walking and where they want to walk,” Burrus said. The firm also will identify barriers, dangerous areas such as bridges and will build a “spider web” of different approaches from housing areas to schools, he added.

“The bottom line is to encourage students to walk,” he said. “Lots of students are not walking because parents won't let them cross busy streets.”

Now that the city has given the green light for the project, the GRISD and county will consider the program. Should TxDoT not receive the funding for any reason, Burrus said he would give the city 40 days to release his firm from the project with no money changing hands.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the program.

“I think it would be the best money we've spent yet,” Councilman Tom Osborn said.