Safe Routes to School: Paving the Way to Safety

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cedar Rapids is preparing to begin a handful of sidewalk construction projects to ultimately increase safety.

The Safe Routes to School Program helps provide funding to get sidewalks where there are missing links near schools.

In just weeks, crews will being pouring two new stretches of sidewalks around Harrison Elementary School. It is one of three projects slated for this summer.

Mason Herron, 10, and Nolan Jacobs, 11, walk with a group of kids and adults to daycare every day after school.

"When we are walking we always walk on the sidewalks," Herron said.

"If we walked through the street we would most likely get hit by a car unless if we walked on the sidewalk we have a more chance of not getting hit," Jacobs said.

The sidewalks around Harrison are packed with kids after school.

"We have most of our students, we have very few of buses here at Harrison and even we have parents who come up and walk their students home," said Harrison Elementary Principal Amy Russell.

Harrison staff and students said they were thankful for new sidewalks.

Glenn Vosatka organizes all of the Safe Routes to School Projects for the city.

"The next one in the works would be for Van Buren School," Vosatka said. "That's on 29th street southwest and that would be between Van Buren Drive and Wilson Avenue."

Overall, federal grant money has paid for the construction of nearly 20 new blocks of sidewalks in about the last five years. City tax dollars pay for the design and prep work.

"It had a lot to do with childhood obesity, and, you know, that really drove the program," Vosatka said.

Next month the city plans to submit six new applications for more Safe Routes to School. For now, however, Nolan and Mason are just enjoying the ones they already have.

"It's fun because we get to pick our own partners and we get to walk with the staff sometimes," Jacobs said.

The city's engineer said he's worried about the future of the program. Federal Legislation changes could mean fewer dollars for these sidewalk projects.
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