JEFFERSON — It may have taken a few tries, but the city of Jefferson finally has secured federal dollars to help make the trip to and from school safer for students.
Jefferson officials have been notified they will receive a Safe Route to Schools Grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The goal of the program is to increase the numbers of students who walk or bike to school by providing safer routes. Although the city applied for the grant last year, it was not selected as a recipient.
“We tried to keep our name in the hat and persistence has paid off. This is a direct reflection of the quality of staff that the city has working for it,” City Manager John Ward said.
“Public works director Jeff Killip was instrumental in identifying this opportunity and completing the intensive application.”
Out of 65 applicants with requests totaling more than $23 million, GDOT only awarded grants to 13 systems. With the state doling out $4.6 million for the program, Jefferson received the largest award, $499,680.
The only other local recipient was Forsyth County.
The city will partner with the Jefferson City Schools System to add sidewalks along a portion of Old Pendergrass Road from the Jefferson Public Library to the Fountainhead Subdivision.
The improvements are expected to impact students at each of the four city schools.
“What’s cool about this is that it will connect approximately 130 homes in Fountainhead and The Preserve with the entire school system and the public library,” Ward said.
“There are some sidewalks directly in front of the schools, but they end long before they reach any of the neighborhoods. This may help to greatly reduce (vehicle) traffic in that area because now students will have a safe route to and from school.”
The city is currently working with GDOT to determine a construction schedule for the project.
Although officials don’t know exactly when the project will get started, just knowing that they are on the list is enough for the time being.
“We are more than fortunate to have been awarded this grant — it’s really a superb program and is really going to benefit the school system,” said Killip.
“There’s no way we could have afforded to do this on our own — nearly half a million dollars is a lot of money. This is just a fantastic gift.”