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Safe routes to school

By Staff | Apr 20, 2014

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The city of Wells applied for a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) grant in 2012-2013 for their Safe Routes to School infrastructure project (SRTS), but were unsuccessful.

“The main issue why we didn’t receive the grant the first time was because the new school wasn’t built yet,” city administrator Robin Leslie says. “The selection process is also based on a points system, which we fell just short of.”

However, the city applied again for the grant last year and were successful this time around.

Leslie was notified on April 4 that the SRTS project was selected by MnDOT to receive $262,086 in federal funds.

“The city of Wells was also awarded the transportation alternatives program (TAP) grant, but we are only able to take one,” Leslie says. “It’s pretty rare to receive two grant awards for the same project.”

Wells turned down the TAP grant because it required more funding from the city. TAP offered $209,670 and asked the city to match $117,939, which included paying for design and engineering, plus a 20 percent match, according to City Council member Ann Marie Schuster.

The SRTS grant awarded $262,086 and only asked the city to match $65,523, which brings the total project cost to $327,609.

$57,522 will go towards construction engineering, $8,000 will be used for preliminary engineering and the SRTS grant will cover the construction cost.

According to MnDOT, there was $4.8 million made available in federal grant funding for 2014-2016 SRTS projects. There were a total of 85 applications received, requesting nearly $11.3 million in funding.

The SRTS project is set to begin in July of 2015.

“However, we are looking into seeing if we can do anything before the grant because the new school will be up and running,” Leslie says. “We don’t want to wait. We would need to get pre-authorization, but it would be great to get started on fixing sidewalks and adding the flashing beacon by the school.”

According to an email sent to Leslie from MnDOT, the Wells SRTS grant application demonstrated comprehensive planning with community support and has potential to increase the number of students safely walking and bicycling to and from school.

The SRTS committee utilized parent and public input to identify improvements necessary to allow students to safely walk and bicycle to the new United South Central School. These improvements in the sidewalk and trail plan include:

New sidewalk/trail on Sixth Avenue SW from the new school border to Third Street SW.

New sidewalk/trail on Seventh Street SW from Sixth Avenue SW to Fourth Avenue SW.

New sidewalk/trail on Highway 22 from Ninth Street SW to 11th Street SW.

Rectangular rapid flashing beacon on Highway 22 at Seventh Street SW.

Public survey respondents identified shopping and service areas as locations they desired to travel by foot or bike. There are currently few sidewalk/trail connections in Wells north of the railroad or along Highway 109. To address this need, the following sidewalk/trail connections were identified:

Broadway Avenue from First Street SE to Highway 109;

Highway 22/Highway 109 from the Dairy Queen to Dollar General.

One of the other primary locations the public desired to walk/bike to was recreational resources such as Thompson Park, the golf course, the swimming pool and Half Moon Park. The following improvements were identified to achieve these purposes:

Seventh Street SE from the existing sidewalk between Third Avenue SE and Fourth Avenue SE to Fourth Avenue SE;

Fourth Avenue SE from Seventh Street SE to 10th Street SE;

10th Street SE from Fourth Avenue SE to Highway 22;

Highway 109 from Fifth Avenue NW to Half Moon Road;

Half Moon Road from Highway 109 to Seventh Avenue SW;

Loop from proposed sidewalk/trail on Half Moon Road around the east side of the park to the proposed sidewalk/trail on Highway 109;

Loop around the park south of First Street SW and west of Fourth Avenue SW.

Also, West of Highway 22, the existing sidewalk/trail grid system is not complete. The following sidewalk/trail improvements were identified to address this deficiency:

Fifth Avenue NW from Highway 109 to Third Street NW;

Third Street SW from Ninth Avenue SW to Sixth Avenue SW;

Seventh Street SW from Ninth Avenue to Sixth Avenue SW;

Ninth Avenue SW from Eighth Street SW to Third Street SW.

“Essentially we are paying $65,523 for a project which will cost $327,609,” Schuster explains. “This is very exciting news for the city of Wells and we are very excited to move forward.”