The Town of Bethlehem has received a federal grant to fund the installation of sidewalks throughout portions of the town where students lack a safe place to walk to and from school.
A grant of $500,000 was awarded through the federal Safe Routes to School Program. The money will be used to install sidewalks, ramps and crosswalk markings along portions of Fernbank Avenue, Delmar Place and Adams Street.
“The project will provide a safe, accessible and convenient path for hundreds of students to walk to school,” said Supervisor John Clarkson. “Our residents want sidewalks, particularly where safety is involved, and this project fills a link on the town’s pedestrian plans and advances our Complete Streets goals.”
Town Planner Robert Leslie submitted an application in October of last year to the state Department of Transportation. A total of $26.5 million was awarded throughout the state, with eight municipalities in the Capital District receiving funds totaling $2.4 million.
The application was backed by the Bethlehem Central School District and St. Thomas the Apostle School, along with the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and parent teacher organizations.
“The health and safety of our students is our utmost priority and we are delighted to partner with the town on a project that benefits the district’s children and the community as a whole,” said Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Thomas Douglas.
The program’s intent is to allow children to walk and bike safely to school, encourage a “healthy and active lifestyle,” make alternative transportation more appealing and reduce “traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.”
Projects also had to meet certain criteria, like being within two miles of a school, benefitting the public interest and being located near a public right-of-way. The sidewalks will benefit students of the Bethlehem Middle School, Hamagrael Elementary School and St. Thomas the Apostle School.
The grant money will pay for a majority of the work, with the town and local sponsors contributing a possible $189,000 in additional funds.
Maureen Cunningham, a member of the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, said in a statement she felt the sidewalks would bring “added value” to the community and improve safety.
“My husband and I moved to this part of Delmar four years ago due in part to how walkable this community is. As an active parent with two small children, I am routinely walking, running and riding on our community’s streets,” she said.
The town expects construction to start in the spring of 2014 after plans and arrangements have been made.