Grant in line to help with Reser Road upgrade

Safe Routes to School funds are expected to help with work from Howard to Fern streets, officials say.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County is expected to receive a $330,000 Safe Routes To School grant this summer through the state Department of Transportation.

If awarded in June, the grant would go toward a $1.7 million project to improve Reser Road from Howard to Fern streets, Walla Walla Public Schools announced Monday.

The Department of Transportation recently placed the Reser Road improvement in its highest ranking category, making it likely to receive funding, the district said. Walla Walla's project ranks fifth among the 124 Safe Routes to School applications submitted this session from 97 agencies and organizations.

Funding requests will go to legislators during the 2011 legislative session, and a final funding decision will be made by June.

The Walla Walla County Public Works Department submitted the grant request last fall to secure some of the funding needed to make sidewalk, signs, bridge, roadway and bike lane improvements on Reser Road, according to the news release. The street provides access to Prospect Point Elementary and Walla Walla High School and is heavily used by students and families.

As part of the application process, Walla Walla County Public Works officials met with Safe Routes to School Coordinator Charlotte Claybrooke to tour the proposed project site on Reser Road. During her visit, Claybrooke was welcomed by Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller, Prospect Point Elementary Principal Chris Gardea, Walla Walla High School Principal Pete Peterson, Walla Walla County Public Works officials, law enforcement officers and concerned parents.

Claybrooke said the district's willingness to partner on the education component of the project, and the county's ability to accept the enforcement requirements, improved the chances of the grant being funded, according to the release. Claybrooke said she was also impressed with the outpouring of community involvement for safe school routes initiatives.

Safe Routes to School programs seek to improve safety and mobility for children as they head to and from school. Funding is used to make engineering and infrastructure improvements, establish education and encouragement activities, and improve enforcement. Past Safe Routes to School awards have brought improvements along Chestnut Street to benefit Blue Ridge Elementary, and on Bridge Street to serve Pioneer Middle School and Edison Elementary School students.

More information on the state's Safe Routes to School program is available online at: wsdot.wa.gov/localprograms/saferoutes.

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