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Walking to school with ease: Flowery Branch may get help with sidewalks

POSTED: December 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Cars line up at the entrance of Flowery Branch Elementary as the end of the school day nears Thursday afternoon at the Radford Road school. The Hall County Commission might apply for a "Safe Routes to Schools" grant to provide sidewalks leading to the elementary school.

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Flowery Branch Elementary students some day may have new — and yet old-fashioned — ways to travel back and forth to school.

Hall County is looking at seeking up to $500,000 from a federally funded state program, Safe Routes to School, to put in sidewalks and crosswalks on Jim Crow and Radford roads leading to the school at 5544 Radford Road.

If approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation, the project would enable children, if they and their parents so desire, to walk or ride bicycles from nearby neighborhoods to the school rather than take the bus or go through a car line with their parents.

County officials are set to ask the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Monday to go forward with the application, which has a Dec. 12 deadline, said Hall Grants Manager Ryan Arnold.

The project aims to increase physical activity of children, reduce traffic congestion around schools and lessen air pollution.

"Studies have shown that physically active kids have improved mood and concentration, a stronger self-image and more self-confidence," according to the state DOT’s Web site on the program. "Physically active kids also have fewer chronic health problems and report lower levels of smoking and alcohol consumption."

Sidewalks are supposed to connect Anaguluskee, Newberry Point and Madison subdivisions to the school.

"It’s an area where there are 411 homes or so that (have been) built or are under construction ... within walking distance," Arnold said.

"Working with the school, we’ll hopefully have a ‘Walk to School Day’ and some classroom activities that promote safety issues concerning walking to school and trying to get back to those days when kids walked to school," he added. "There’s not a whole lot of people that do that anymore."

The Flowery Branch Police Department also might have a role in the initiative, such as sponsoring a safety training day, Arnold said.

"We already have the police come in and work with second grade on riding bikes (safely) and stuff, so there are some things we will do if the grant comes," said principal Susan Miller.

Arnold said the county could hear back on the grant early next year.

"Hopefully, within the next year or so, we’ll start construction," he added.

Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew, working with the county on the effort, said that if the grant is not approved this year, "we would be looking toward the application for next year."

As a side project, the county and DOT have agreed to make improvements at five intersections along heavily traveled McEver Road, including at Jim Crow Road.

The work, which has been put on hold because of budget problems at the Georgia DOT, will involve construction of right-turn lanes on each side of the intersections and left-turn lanes where needed, improving pedestrian access with signals and crosswalks, and replacing the traffic signal equipment, said Teri Pope, DOT spokeswoman.

Pope said the Safe Routes projects are not part of a reprioritization of projects the state is going through.

It is a "different pot of money, altogether," she said.

Arnold said the hope is that the Safe Routes project at Flowery Branch Elementary "would hopefully at some point in the future connect" with the McEver project, Arnold said.

"It wouldn’t be a situation of there is 100 feet of sidewalk and then nothing for 20 feet and then more sidewalks," he said.



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