By Joe Hadsall
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — The city has received a grant geared toward getting more kids to walk or ride a bicycle to school.
The Highway Safety Division of the Missouri Department of Transportation announced that Carl Junction was awarded an $18,000 grant. The city will conduct a study on establishing pedestrian routes around the city leading to the school’s campus on Pennell Street, between Roney and Broadway streets.
“When we are finished with the study, we will give the results to city council and the (Carl Junction R-1) Board of Education,” said Steve Lawver, the city’s community economic development director. “They will look at what changes need to be made.”
Currently, about 10-15 percent of students walk or ride a bicycle to school, Assistant Superintendent David Stephens said. He said that number is probably lower than other districts, since the district’s schools are located on the same campus.
“I think a lot of parents feel that they have no other option than to take their kids to school,” Stephens said. “If we can figure out how to make the routes safer, then more kids will walk or ride.”
The city’s main thoroughfare, Pennell Street, is a busy road with a highway designation, but no sidewalks.
“I have always had concerns with Pennell Street and its lack of sidewalks,” Superintendent Phil Cook said. “I hope this study can address some of those concerns.”
The study is part of the Safe Routes to School program, sponsored by MoDOT.
“The program encourages children to walk, ride or wheel to school,” said Todd Messenger, program coordinator. “The goal is to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle for these kids.”
Messenger said another goal is to reduce traffic and air pollution around schools.
Grant recipients were chosen by a committee of officials from law enforcement, state, regional and local agencies. The committee awarded 21 grants for infrastructure projects and 25 for non-infrastructure activities.
No other nearby agencies were awarded grants.
The plan may include future tie-ins with existing trail projects. Lawver said that the program deals with a one-mile radius from schools.
Planning is under way to develop the Ruby Jack Trail, which will be converted under the Rails to Trails program. The trail would extend from the Kansas border to Carthage.
“If we can get the trail tied into that, it makes it easier for kids to get to school,” Lawver said.
Safe Routes to School is a program run by the Highway Safety Division of MoDOT. About $2.6 million was given out in grants this year to enhance the safety of pedestrian routes to schools.
By Joe Hadsall
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