Grant to help develop plan for safe route to South Side

CHAMPAIGN — City and county officials will be working to develop a Safe Routes To School plan for South Side Elementary after receiving a state grant this month.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District received $10,000 from the state's We Choose Health initiative to collect traffic data and put together a plan of how South Side Elementary students can safely get to school.

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission will put the plan together. The commission has already done two such projects: one for Stratton Elementary and another for Dr. Howard Elementary.

It is the second year the public health district has received the grant. Program coordinator Nikki Hillier said it was suggested that this year's money be used for South Side Elementary after a 7-year-old student crossing Prospect Avenue was clipped by a car in September.

The student broke two bones in her leg, according to her father. The accident sparked a demand from school officials and parents for safer student crossings, as South Side Elementary is just a block from one of the busiest streets in Champaign.

The $10,000 grant — plus a $2,000 contribution from the city of Champaign — will pay for planners to collect and analyze traffic data and traffic patterns, sidewalk conditions, lighting and "anything that can help kids walk and ride to school safely," Hillier said.

The study will take about a year, she said, and could make the area eligible for more grants to actually build any infrastructure that may be recommended as part of the plan.

Safer walking and bicycling conditions for South Side Elementary is on the agenda for the Champaign City Council, too. The council is scheduled to review recommendations from the police and public works departments when it meets on Oct. 22.

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