Town will take steps to get a state ‘Safe Routes’ grant
By Frank Ruggiero
It might not be the road less traveled, but it is a safe route.
The town of Boone will apply for funding from the N.C. Safe Routes to School program, which enables and encourages children to walk and ride bicycles to school.
According to the N.C. Department of Transportation Web site, the programs “are comprehensive efforts that look at ways to make walking and bicycling to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.”
In addition, the program can ultimately improve safety and reduce traffic, as well as fuel consumption and air pollution near schools.
On behalf of the Walk Boone Committee, which is tasked with making Boone more walkable, mayor pro tem Lynne Mason brought the matter before the Boone Town Council at its regular meeting Nov. 15. She said the program would offer funding for an action plan service award, which may become a requirement for funding infrastructure needs further down the road.
“This is basically a planning grant that would allow joint planning, hopefully, between the town, county and school system, related both to Hardin Park (Elementary School) and the new high school project,” Mason said, emphasizing that the grant is only for planning and does not cover infrastructure.
According to the NCDOT, such non-infrastructure grant reimbursement programs offer funding for programs and activities that use education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation strategies to shift community behavior, attitudes and social norms. During the first grant cycle, from 2007 to 2008, the NCDOT has allocated up to $500,000 in grant funding for non-infrastructure grants.
Funding requests, though, can range from $10,000 to $50,000 per application, and recipients will be notified by May 2008. Once a formal notice to proceed is issued, recipients must complete their non-infrastructure projects in 12 months.
Council member Rennie Brantz asked if the town would be required to match funds, and Mason said, no, in that the program offers outright planning grants.
Council member Janet Pepin asked if this would compete with any other grant applications the town already has abroad, and town manager Greg Young said he checked and learned that Safe Routes is separate.
Brantz moved that the council apply for a Safe Routes grant, Pepin seconded, and the motion carried unanimously.
For more information on Safe Routes to School, visit the following: www.ncdot.org/transit/bicycle/saferoutes/SafeRoutes.html on the Web.