The village of Yellow Springs is among the first Ohio communities to get funding through a new state initiative aimed at improving safety for walkers and bicyclists.
Yellow Springs received $65,000. The village is one of 30 Ohio cities, villages, park districts and counties to be selected from 100 applicants to receive part of the $1.7 million allotted for Active Transportation grants, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is administering the program with the Ohio Department of Health.
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Other local entities to receive funding are Bike Miami Valley, a bicycle advocacy group slated to get $19,195, and Dayton Public Schools, which was awarded $20,000 for a Girls in Gear program, a walk to school event and a Better Block program, according to ODOT.
Active transportation is defined as walking, bicycling and riding the bus, said ODOT Program Manager Julie Walcoff, who noted that in recent years, there has been an increase in pedestrian-related crashes.
“The ultimate goal of the plan is to provide community specific guidance to improve and encourage safety for active transportation, improve safety for people who already use active transportation and to encourage more people to do so,” Walcoff said.
The village’s allotment will be used to pay for consulting by Toole Design Group, which is tasked with formulating a plan partially aimed at identifying sidewalks in need of repair and where pathways should be developed, according to Yellow Springs Manager Patti Bates.
“The village has a large pedestrian and bicycling population, so safely sharing transportation corridors can sometimes be a challenge,” Bates said. “The village wants to ensure that future development projects consider all transportation modes … Better facilitating active transportation in the village will improve quality of life in terms of health, environmental and economic benefits.”
As the Midwest manager for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Council Vice President Brian Housh said “active transportation is what I do.”
He said many Ohio communities are working to make walking and biking safer, and he pointed to programs in Cuyahoga County and Columbus as having well-developed “active transportation plans.”
This grant will pay for a similar plan for Yellow Springs, and it’s the first step toward getting funding to pay for actual infrastructure changes and developments.
“The first step is the plan. The funding piece is never easy,” Housh said. “One of the main challenges in my job with Rails to Trails is figuring out more funding, and that will be the challenge for Yellow Springs as well.”
Yellow Springs sets aside about $50,000 a year to address sidewalk maintenance. Housh said prior to his time on council, council members decided the village was responsible for all sidewalk maintenance, instead of sharing the costs with homeowners who would be responsible for sidewalks contiguous to their properties.
Housh said that’s going to be an added challenge for the village, as a recent inventory of repair needs in the village are in the millions of dollars.
“The village can’t afford to maintain all the sidewalks,” he said.