SPRINGFIELD — Federal Safe Routes to School grants have been awarded to Champaign, Urbana, Arcola and Crescent City as part of a $21.7 million package to Illinois. The four are among 229 funded projects in the state.
The program, in which federal grant funds are administered by the state, is designed to encourage children to walk and bike to school safely.
— Crescent City in Iroquois County won a $250,000 grant to repair, replace and construct sidewalks around Crescent City Grade School.
— Arcola will receive $249,011 for three separate projects at the Arcola Elementary School. One will repair, replace and construct sidewalks around the community. Another will install new school safety zone signs, including "speed feedback" signs, and the third will pay for redesigned pick-up and drop-off areas to increase safety and access at the school.
"This is outstanding," said Jean Chrostoski, the superintendent of schools in Arcola. "We've been waiting to hear about this for about two years."
Jim Crane, an engineer who is president of the Arcola school board, said the grant will benefit all students in the community.
"We're a little different in that all of our schools are at the same site, so this will affect students from kindergarten all the way to seniors in high school, if they walk or ride their bikes to school," said Crane, who also is the Douglas County engineer. "Hat's off to my wife (Rachael Crane) who wrote about 99 percent of the grant application. She's an urban planner by trade, who does some substitute teaching."
The Arcola school district has about 800 children.
"We had almost given up on this," said Crane. "This was supposed to have been awarded in September. We just figured it was gone. You know how the state is now."
— Urbana will receive $199,000 to install a network of on-road bicycle lanes within 1 1/2 miles of Urbana Middle School. That entails striped bike lanes along Florida Avenue from Race Street to Kinch Street, and on Kinch from Florida to Washington Street, according to Urbana planner Rebecca Bird.
The network also includes signs, including electronic speed monitors, for 5.6 miles of newly designated bicycle routes throughout the city, Bird said.
And it calls for the installation of new bike racks with a capacity of 112 spaces at each of the schools along the network — UMS and Martin Luther King, Prairie, Thomas Paine, Wiley and Yankee Ridge elementary schools.
— Champaign will receive $185,800 for two projects in the neighborhood around Stratton Elementary School in north central Champaign. The larger project ($122,900) calls for the installation of raised pedestrian islands and other improvements at Neil and Eureka streets on the east side of the school. The second project ($62,900) calls for construction of a new sidewalk on the west side of Neil Street from Kenyon Road to Edgebrook Drive, connecting Stratton with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, for walking trips and events.
Another grant of $76,000 went to the Champaign-Urbana Safe Routes to School project to continue and expand programming that includes working with kindergarten through eighth grade students to educate and encourage them to walk and bike.
"These projects enhance roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure within communities, which is important in keeping both drivers and pedestrians safe," said Gov. Pat Quinn. "Encouraging children to walk and bike to school not only makes school routes safer, but also improves the quality of life for Illinois residents by easing traffic congestion and reducing emissions."