The City of Valparaiso has just received a $210,375 grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements to improve the safety of walking routes near Memorial Elementary School. The project will include 4,125 feet of 5-foot-wide sidewalks, plus 24 handicapped ramps, four solar-powered radar driver feedback signs, and 10 bicycle racks – all designed to enhance safety and accessibility for students and residents who walk to school, parks, and surrounding areas.
“We’re delighted this grant will enhance our pathways and enable more children to safely walk to their community school,” said Mayor Jon Costas. “Because of safety concerns, just 6% of students in this neighborhood walk to school, even though a third of them live within a half-mile of the school. By filling in the missing links of sidewalk, adding ramps, and introducing lighted flashers to reduce speed, we’ll increase safety and give more kids the option to walk to school,” he said.
The entire project is funded by the grant, with no matching funds required. Valparaiso was chosen for the grant through a highly competitive review and approval process in which $3.4 million in funding was awarded to 21 selected proposals.
This latest grant for Memorial’s neighborhoods is the third the city has secured through the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program. An earlier $100,000 grant for the Parkview neighborhood funded 4,020 feet of sidewalks, plus 16 curb ramps. A $155,000 grant for the Cooks Corners neighborhood will add 3,600 feet of sidewalks plus 11 ramps. Where possible the city has worked to make the funds go further by completing work in-house, including design and drawings, excavation, concrete work, and landscape restoration. Design work on the Cooks Corners and Memorial projects is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2011.
On a personal note, much of the work to secure the recent grant was completed by two friends of Valparaiso who passed away this summer. Matt Kras, Valparaiso’s Stormwater Engineer, provided the engineering cost estimates. Ken Cypra, was a consultant who did the tedious work of evaluating the survey data required for the grant application. “Their legacy will live on by providing safer sidewalks to and from Memorial Elementary School for many years to come,” said Tyler Kent, Assistant City Planner who managed the process. Others who contributed to the successful application include the Valparaiso Community Schools, Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission, and the Valparaiso Pathways Committee.