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Wauwatosa 'Safe Routes to School' program wins $166,000 grant

Funding, expertise will take program to the next level

Dec. 11, 2012

Wauwatosa won a grant worth $166,940 to improve its Safe Routes to School program, which encourages bicycling and walking to school as a safer, healthier transportation alternative for students.

The funding comes as one part of two grants. One is a planning grant that provides not money but expert help to study and develop a route to effectively and safely bicycle between McKinley Elementary School, 2435 N. 89th St., and Whitman Middle School, 11100 W. Center St.

Planning a route is seen as a way to extend the McKinley Safe Routes to School program for those students advancing on to middle school.

Barriers between McKinley and Whiteman include a river, a golf course, a mall, North Avenue and Mayfair Road, said Alderman Jeffrey Roznowski, who was the primary contact person for the grant.

The second grant is the funding: $166,940 of a requested $203,000, which will be used to install infrastructure and for training.

Items to be installed include flashing beacon signs at crosswalks at the intersections of Swan Boulevard and Meinecke Street; Swan and Clarke Street (for students at Christ King Parish, 2604 N. Swan Blvd.); and Wright Street and Wauwatosa Avenue (for students at Roosevelt Elementary, 2535 N. 73rd St., and Longfellow Middle School, 7600 W. North Ave.).

Other items are electronic speed limit monitoring signs for North Avenue, Swan Boulevard and Wauwatosa Avenue; bike racks for Whitman, Longfellow and McKinley; traffic-flow signage for McKinley pickup and drop-off times; 250 bike helmets; crossing guard kits including in-road crosswalk signs, LED stop-sign paddles, and cones for about 20 locations in the city; a web site and educational materials, incentives, and maps for the Walking School Bus program and walk- and bike-to-school days.

Wauwatosa is the only grant recipient to receive two awards this year. Seventeen awards were made, totaling almost $3.4 million funded by the federal government.

Tressie Kamp, multi-modal program manager for the state Department of Transportation, said the state received 74 applications totaling $16.5 million. Decisions were made by a panel in a competitive judging system that measured the degree to which applications met certain criteria, she said.

Roznowski said the Wauwatosa application was strengthened by the fact that a program had already been developed at the grassroots level, demonstrating a clear commitment to providing safer routes.

"It's because of the things we did, and that was all intentional," he said. "We said, let's start small, let's do some grassroots efforts, let's raise some small amount of money to show commitment, so that when the opportunity came to apply for bigger grants, we would have a lot of support behind it."

"We've just had a great group of parents and school people and everyone who have really been supportive of the project," said Sarah Lerand, a McKinley parent who has been instrumental in launching Safe Routes to School.

She said she would like to see the effort expand.

"Some schools in the Wauwatosa area, such as Roosevelt, already have started some programs as well," she said. "The education with the parents and kids we already have been doing already the last couple years and the grant will just enable us to further that work and also to involve more families in Wauwatosa."

"It took two and a half years to get where we are with the grant," she continued, "but the solid groundwork has paid off.

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