Talawanda students to benefit from proposed $1M-plus footbridge over railroad tracks

Oxford has aapplied for grants to help with costs.

Credit: Oxford Area Trails

Credit: Oxford Area Trails

A proposed footbridge over railroad tracks in Oxford will gain $800,000 in funding from the newest capital spending bill from the statehouse. The bridge will be built north of Talawanda High School to connect the high school and middle school.

Oxford Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said it will allow students to walk to school from their neighborhoods as part of the Oxford Area Trails’ estimated $6.6 million plan.

When plans for the bridge and connecting trail were proposed in 2020, Talawanda students in all grades could receive busing to and from school. Because of recent budget issues, changes have made busing unavailable for all high school students and students who live within two miles of their school. Greene said the changes in the school district have not influenced the plan but may help families.

“Even before Talawanda was having trouble, the trail connection was always about connecting neighborhoods to schools and parks,” Greene said. “It feels like our school needs us right now, and I’m really proud to try to bring this forward for our community.”

Oxford trails are currently used by an average of 251 people per day, according to a 2023 study.

Greene said the bridge is estimated to cost more than $1 million and will start construction in late 2025. The bridge will mainly be made of metal and have mesh siding to prevent anything from falling on the tracks.

The funding is coupled with a levy implemented in 2018 which has gone toward trail construction and upkeep. The levy has brought in $1 million per year, but Greene said the levy would not be able to pay for future construction by itself.

“In all honesty, if we don’t get [funding from the state], this might be the last phase we do unless we find other revenue sources,” Greene said. “Inflation is just so high that our levy is just not able to keep up.”

Oxford has also applied for OKI Regional Council of Governments grants to help with costs. The city received more than $2.7 million through the grants, which require the city to match all funds with levy funding.

Oxford City Council Member David Prytherch said the funding is important to local taxpayers because it allows the city to build $800,000 worth of trail elsewhere rather than putting levy money toward the bridge. Along with saving local funds, Pytherch said the bridge would make a student’s walk to school more viable.

“[Talawanda’s busing situation] put a lot of families in a pickle,” Prytherch said. “Our schools are close enough to be bikeable for many children, but they just have no safe way to get there. So everything we can do to make our paths more bikeable means that a high schooler might be able to get to school on their own safely.”

The plan was proposed to Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers in November 2023. Carruthers pushed for the money in the budget because she saw how the bridge would impact students and the community as a whole.

“I try and find projects for every part of my district,” Carruthers said, “and when I saw it, I thought it sounded like a good plan. It’s safe and helps the students.”

Greene said the project will go to bid early next year before construction begins.

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