by Dennis Dalman
An application for a “Safe Routes to School” grant was approved by the Sartell City Council at its last meeting.
If the city receives the grant, it plans to use it to construct a 7-foot wide sidewalk along the south side of 2nd Street S. from Pinecone Road east to 4th Avenue S. Currently, there is no sidewalk or trail on that side of the street. There is only one crosswalk on that busy roadway – the one located at 4th Avenue S. by the Middletown Apartments. A sidewalk would serve the Sundance Business Center and lead to the semaphore-lighting intersection at the intersection of Pinecone Road and 2nd Street S.
A Minnesota Department of Transportation study in 2009 determined there was an average of 10,900 vehicles per day on 2nd Street, which is a two-lane road with left-turn lanes in some places. The speed limit on that road is 40 mph.
The sidewalk project is estimated to cost $544,459. The city hopes a grant, if received, would cover most of that cost. The terms of the grant specify the city must chip in 20 percent of the cost of any project.
This year, there is no maximum amount associated with a SRTS grant, which previously had a maximum amount of $100,000. The grant is administered by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with funding provided by the federal government.
Founded in 2005, The SRTS program is a national and statewide effort to make improvements on any routes children walk or bike to school. There are three types of grants: planning assistance, non-infrastructure implementation and infrastructure implementation. Sartell’s request is for an infrastructure-implementation grant.
Sartell just might have a one-up on other cities in the grant process. That is because SRTS tends to favor cities that have done studies and planning for safe routes to school. Sartell has already begun that process to identify barriers to walking and biking to and from schools. That study, in fact, was funded by an SRTS grant awarded last year to hire the consultant. The Sartell SRTS team includes a consultant, city staff and parents from the city, Pine Meadow Elementary School, Sartell Middle School and BLEND, a central Minnesota organization that promotes “Better Living, Exercise and Nutrition Daily.”
Years ago, Sartell also received an SRTS grant of $121,000 to fill in the gaps of the hiking-biking-sidewalks in the 15th Street N. area leading to Pinecone Road.
Other area projects funded by SRTS grants include four in St. Cloud and one in Sauk Rapids. In Sauk Rapids, the money was used to construct sidewalks and improve crossings at Pleasantview Elementary School. The St. Cloud grants were for street-crossing safety improvements, signage and bike-parking areas; safety improvements for children on their way to and from the splash pad-park-playground next to Westwood Elementary School; the hiring of an SRTS consultant; and the hiring of a coordinator for BLEND.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.