By Mario Conde
The California Department of Transportation awarded $48.5 million for 106 Safe Routes to Schools projects to help reduce injuries and fatalities among children in grades K-12 who walk and bicycle to school. The City of Calexico received $393,300 for this program and had to put 10% of matching funds of $437,000 for the total project cost. This funding will be used to install curb ramps, constructing new crosswalks, fix sidewalks, striping, installing new signs, installation of radar speed displays, and bike lanes.
The Schools that are going to be benefited by this funding will be Main Elementary School, William Moreno, Dool Elementary, De Anza Junior High, and Vincent Memorial Junior High. The improvements will be done in various locations within ¼ mile of the schools.
“Safety is Caltrans’ number one priority,” said Director Will Kempton in a press release. “Nothing is more important than safety of our children as they travel to and from schools.” Caltrans chose each safety project based on need, its effectiveness, and how quickly it could be delivered.
City Engineer Veronica Atondo said that there will be a joint work between the Calexico Police Department and the Calexico Unified School District to motivate students to walk to schools.
Other cities in the Imperial Valley that received funding for State Routes to School are El Centro that received $300,600 in funding to improve Louts Ave. between Main Street and Adams Avenue adjacent to Sunflower Elementary School. The City of Westmorland also received $370,520 in funding in order to improve various segments and intersections along major routes traversed to Westmorland Union Elementary School.
California was the first state in the country to legislate its own Safe Routes to School program with dedicated funding in 1999. This program encourages more children to walk and bicycle to school, resulting in healthier children, improved air quality, reduced fuel consumption and green house gas emissions, and less traffic congestion near schools.
To date, the state program has awarded $243.5 million for safety projects, and the federal Safe Routes to Schools Program has awarded $91.5 million.