March 5, 2008


City seeks grant to make it safer for students walking to school


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Nadia Shevchuk, left, and Anna Marchuk, both freshmen at Cortland Senior High School, walk down south Pendelton Street Monday afternoon. The city is looking to improve the sidewalks and crossings in this stretch of road, between Sunnyfield Drive and Huntington Street.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — With more than 90 students walking to and from Randall Elementary School, the city wants to apply for federal money to improve sidewalks and traffic control, and add crosswalks on Pendleton Street.
At Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, the council agreed to submit an application to the state Department of Transportation for $192,600 under the federal Safe Routes to School Program.
The city’s project proposes the installation of 850 linear feet of new sidewalk across seven properties on the east side of south Pendleton Street that do not have sidewalks.
Three of the seven properties along the strip are owned by the Cortland Housing Authority while the remainder of the properties are owned by private land owners.
Ann Hotchkin, project manager for Thoma Development, said those four landowners have been notified of the city’s intentions. Cortland-based Thoma Development Consultants will be submitting the city’s grant application.
The city also wants to replace 400 linear feet of sidewalk on the south side of Huntington Street in front of the former John Thayer building at the corner of Huntington and Pendleton streets.
Two new crosswalks, one at Valley View Drive and one at the intersection of Huntington and Pendleton streets, would also be put in with the money. A city crossing guard would move from Jackson Drive to the new crosswalk at the intersection.
The proposal states that new signs in conjunction with the crosswalks and two permanent mounted speed-monitoring signs along the north and south sides of South Pendleton Street would be installed, and a radar device for a police patrol vehicle and a bicycle would be provided to the Cortland Police Department.
Mayor Tom Gallagher said the new equipment for the police department would not require additional officers.
“There’s been some concerns in that area already of kids walking to school,” Gallagher said. “This gives us a chance to open up that area. It will also be better aesthetically.”
Any elementary student who lives within 0.9 mile from the school is not provided with bus service. At the junior-senior high level, it is 1.5 miles, according to the Cortland School District’s transportation policy.
Superintendent of Cortland Schools Larry Spring said he estimates 93 students walk to Randall Elementary School from the Pendleton Street area and between 300 and 350 students walk to the junior-senior high school.
“It’s really dependent on the weather,” Spring said. “This (project) would make walking to school, in particular Randall School, a much safer endeavor for those kids, particularly in winter with the snow and ice. I know we get concerned with how kids cross the street, the traffic, speeds of the cars coming down the hill and the line of sight.”
Spring added that the crosswalks would help drivers know where children are going to cross.
The application for the city’s proposed project must be filed with the state by April 1. If the city’s application is approved, the city will be reimbursed the $192,600 when the project is completed, and the project must be completed within five years of the contract.
Created in August 2005, the Safe Routes to School Program makes funding available to communities for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to walk and bicycle safely to school, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
The federal funds are distributed to each state’s Department of Transportation and from there are allocated to communities by application.
Hotchkin said $1.1 million is available in DOT Region 3, which includes Cortland County and has approximately 200 school districts.
The Safe Routes to School Program is funded at $612 million over five federal fiscal years, 2005 through 2009.
In 2005, New York received $1 million for the program. This year, New York received more than $8 million to distribute.
“Instead of the city asking for the maximum amount of funding, I thought it was appropriate to ask for a more modest project,” Hotchkin said.
According to the program, the maximum amount of money an applicant can request is $550,000, which would be for both infrastructure projects or engineering improvements, and noninfrastructure related activities such as education, enforcement and encouragement programs.
Hotchkin said the city’s $50,000 project to improve the line of sight at the corner of Northcliff and Pendleton streets would leverage the city’s project application. The city previously bonded for the $50,000 project.
“This will be done in addition to the (proposed) project,” Hotchkins said.
Additionally, the Cortland County Health Department recently received a public health grant and will use the funds to provide special outreach at Randall School regarding bicycle and pedestrian safety.