Red Wing schools get grants to develop safer routes for studentsNinety-two schools in a total of 44 different communities throughout the state will soon receive assistance for their efforts in developing safe routes to school, and two of them can be found in Red Wing.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Ninety-two schools in a total of 44 different communities throughout the state will soon receive assistance for their efforts in developing safe routes to school, and two of them can be found in Red Wing.
Twin Bluff Middle School and Sunnyside Elementary School were each awarded a grant from a program put on by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, though it’s not your average grant.
“It’s not like we’re getting money. We’re getting engineering and consulting assistance,” explained Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson. “MnDOT will be hiring a professional engineering firm to work with us and really evaluate and develop some concepts for physical changes and operational changes.”
Applying for the grants was a group effort spearheaded by Live Healthy Red Wing, an organization that has been developing different ways to encourage fitness and health throughout the community. Designing safe routes to school is just the first step in getting children to take advantage of healthy options.
“These projects will help communities increase opportunities for kids to walk and bike to school,” MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel said. “More kids walking and biking means less traffic on the road and in front of schools, improving safety and promoting healthier kids.”
Live Healthy Red Wing approached Sunnyside Elementary more than a year ago in hopes of promoting such means of travel. Through a program called Walking Wednesday, an average of 70 elementary school students have started to skip the bus or mom’s minivan once a week and make their way to school on foot instead.
“It’s been a fabulous program and it has really excited our students,” Sunnyside Principal Patti Roberts said.
Receiving the grants from MnDOT will allow representatives from Sunnyside, Twin Bluff, Live Healthy Red Wing and the city of Red Wing to collectively analyze existing conditions, gather public input and identify potential solutions in order to develop a “Safe Routes to School” plan.
And students won’t be the only ones to benefit.
Working on the project accomplishes a goal set by Live Healthy Red Wing as well as a goal set by the city of Red Wing in its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan that was adopted in 2011.
“We’re all kind of in this together,” Peterson said.
And depending on what solutions the engineering firm recommends for safer routes, the groups might come together to shoulder costs as well.
“It could be that the solutions could relate both to street improvements and on-school site improvements,” Peterson said, explaining how the project could end up being funded by both the city of Red Wing and the Red Wing School District.
So far, all of those details are up in the air. Before any of those things can be discussed, MnDOT needs to put out a request for proposal and hire a firm, something that’s being worked on right now.
Peterson said he expects consulting on the project will begin later this summer.