State money goes to two Butler Co. school districts to improve walking safety

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Two Butler County school districts will receive assistance from the state as part of its Safe Routes to Schools program.

The city of Hamilton was one of 27 communities to receive a Safe Routes to School grant for a construction project that benefits Crawford Woods Elementary, while Fairfield Twp. was one of a handful of areas that will receive technical assistance as a school travel plan is developed within the Fairfield City School District.

Hamilton city and school officials said they’re “excited” about the grant and the project that will install new sidewalks along Hancock Avenue and a few surrounding areas to complete the sidewalk grid around Crawford Woods Elementary School.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The project is scheduled for fiscal year 2027, said Hamilton Planning Director Liz Hayden.

“This project was one of only 10 out of 73 street improvement projects that was identified as a high priority in Hamilton’s Active Transportation Plan,” she said. The total cost of the project is expected to be just under $500,000.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Mike Holbrook said the district is “grateful for the Safe Routes to Schools grant,” which in previous years this grant has assisted the district’s overall school safety initiative. The city has received this grant for Linden (twice) and Ridgeway elementary schools over the past three years.

“Crawford Woods has a significant number of students that walk or ride a bike to school daily, and with safety as a top priority, the additional sidewalks have improved the safety of the Crawford Woods students,” he said.

Nearly 40% of Crawford Woods Elementary students walk to and from school.

Hamilton’s grant is part of a record $9.8 million in grant funds awarded from the state to improve safety for students walking and biking to and from school in 25 Ohio counties. Funds will contribute to new infrastructure, including sidewalks and path extensions, crosswalks and rapid flashing beacons, bicycle lanes, and other safety equipment. It also provides programming for communities to help encourage and enable K-12 students living within 2 miles of their schools to walk or ride a bike.

“Walking and biking is a healthy way for children to get to and from school, but we must ensure each student can do so safely. This program provides that opportunity,” Gov. Mike DeWine said.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks said it’s encouraging to see increased interest in active transportation across Ohio, but added that ”these safety improvements aren’t as effective if drivers aren’t paying attention, driving the speed limit, and being extra alert for young children, especially around schools during school hours.”

Fairfield Twp. and Fairfield City Schools didn’t receive a set amount of grant money but received technical assistance from ODOT as a school travel plan is developed for the two township elementary schools, Fairfield East and Fairfield North. The technical assistance is funding consulting work from Burgess & Niple, said Erin Grushon, a senior transportation planner at the Columbus-based firm.

“The completed plan will include recommendations to create safer routes for students and parents walking or biking to school,” said Grushon.

It’s anticipated to have the plan completed by early 2024. There had been a stakeholder’s workshop last month involving administrators, teachers, parents, and township representatives, and Grushon said another meeting will be scheduled for the fall.

Since its inception in 2005, ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program has provided more than $75 million to schools, municipalities, health districts, park districts, and key non-profit partners to improve safety for students.

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