No funding for safe routes to school in Coon Rapids

The city of Coon Rapids has been unsuccessful in tapping into federal funding through a state grant program for three proposed projects to provide safe routes to schools in the community.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had $3.2 million in federal money for infrastructure projects as part of the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, but had 62 applications for a total of $15 million, according to Dave Full, city project director.

“Not one of our projects was selected, Full said.

No city match would have been needed.

The SRTS grants would have provided federal funding for infrastructure projects located within two miles of a school with students in grades K-8, he said in a memo to the Coon Rapids City Council.

The grant program has three goals, Full wrote in his report.

• Enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bike to school.

• Make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.

• Facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

One of the three grant requests would have provided electronic speed school zone feedback signs for Morris Bye Elementary School on Crooked Lake Boulevard, cost estimate of $27,940.

The other two grant requests were targeted at children walking to and from Sand Creek Elementary School.

One proposed a bituminous trail, which has an estimated cost of $130,680, through Wilderness Park from the Main Street tunnel to 121st Avenue in the vicinity of Fire Station 2, providing a link to the school, according to Full.

The other would have been a bituminous trail, estimated to cost $52,910, from Bunker Hills Regional Park to the Main Street pedestrian tunnel east of Avocet Street.

The Wilderness Park trail project has also been included in a city application for grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), on which the city hopes to hear about in July, according to Full.

Last year, the city built a tunnel under Main Street as part of Anoka County’s project reconstructing Main Street to provide a safe crossing, he wrote in a report to the council.

“The high speeds and volumes of traffic on Main Street create a dangerous area for pedestrians to cross,” Full wrote.

“The proposed connection through Wilderness Park would continue a safe route for pedestrians to and from the Bunker Hills Regional Park.”

One of the other two projects for which the city is requesting a DNR grant is a pedestrian crosswalk signal on Northdale at Sand Creek Park would involve the placement of push-button activated crossing signals.

According to Full, when pedestrians push the button, the traffic light would first flash yellow, then it would go to steady yellow and finally to a solid red to stop the traffic.

“Pedestrians will have their own signs which visibly countdown the available time in the crosswalk and the city will be able to identify the appropriate duration of the signal, between five and 60 seconds in five-second increments,” Full wrote in his report to the council.

“Once the time has elapsed, the traffic light will turn off completely.”

In addition to the traffic signal, crossing enhancements would include the painting of both a crosswalk and the word “Stop” on the traffic lanes, Full wrote.

Two pedestrian crossing signs would be installed for each direction, one to warn drivers of the upcoming pedestrian crossing and the other at the crossing itself, he wrote.

Last year the city installed a Hawk Flasher System on Round Lake Boulevard for pedestrians crossing from the Wedgewood Trail and it has worked very well controlling pedestrian traffic, according to Full.

The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $30,000.

For the third time, the city has applied for a DNR trail grant for the 85th Avenue project.

The proposed trail on the south side of 85th (County Road 132) would connect the existing trail along Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley to East River Road.

According to Full, both the county highway and parks departments support the trail project.

The project has an estimated price tag of $280,000.

“The city could also complete the trail through Kennedy Park and connect the trail system to the Mississippi Regional Trail to the west,” Full wrote.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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