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The neighborhood surrounding Washington Elementary School was the focus of Minot's Safe Routes to School work in 2019.
The City of Minot continues to improve walkability and accessibility in the community through the federally funded Safe Routes to School program.
Most of the work done this summer was in the area around Washington Elementary School. Jesse Berg, a project engineer with the City of Minot, said approximately eight blocks had work done in 2019. Some of the streets already had sidewalks on one side, so the project added sidewalks to the other side of the street.
“The goal of these projects is to create safe ways to get pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, and others off the roadway and onto alternative routes,” said Berg. “We want to help get people to their destination safely and provide a way to do that without driving. If someone lives a couple blocks from Washington Elementary School, now if they want to walk their child to school, they can do that safely without having to walk in the street.”
The City of Minot has been participating in the Safe Routes to School program for many years, submitting proposals on an annual basis. Berg said the City did a study about 10 years ago to determine the needs of the community relating to safer routes to school, including evaluating the needs for more signs, crosswalks, and sidewalks.
“Working with a consultant, the City created a list of priorities, and as funding becomes available, we’re working on finishing projects on that list,” Berg said, adding that the City will likely re-evaluate the remaining projects on the priority list over the next couple of years.
“Part of our work this summer was to use sections of new sidewalk to connect existing sidewalk leading to Washington Elementary School,” Berg said. “We’d like to be able to do more, but we have to work within our funding.”
As part of its Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), the North Dakota Department of Transportation solicits projects and awards funding based on how the submitted proposals are scored. Projects under TAP include bicycle and pedestrian projects, scenic and environmental projects, and historic projects. The Safe Routes to School projects are just one type of project that is funded through the program. Not all projects are funded every year, but they can be submitted more than once.
The program provides 80 percent of the construction costs, with the City providing the remaining 20 percent. The City must also pay any engineering or consulting fees. The City budgeted approximately $85,000 this year for its portion of these projects, and will likely spend about $83,000.
The main work in the Washington Elementary area has been completed, Berg said, although there are as few minor aspects like tree-planting and landscaping yet to be finished.
“I know the new sidewalks are already being used because I’ve seen the muddy footprints and bike tire marks,” Berg said. “During construction, I had one resident who didn’t think the project was necessary and said it wouldn’t look good in the neighborhood. But since the project was completed, that resident has reached out to me to say he has changed his mind and is glad we did it.”