Saratoga County

School applies for grant for sidewalks

Officials are taking another step to try to improve the safety for students walking home from the

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Officials are taking another step to try to improve the safety for students walking home from the Mechanicville City School District.

The school district and town of Halfmoon have applied for a $158,750 grant to build a quarter-mile sidewalk along Pruyn Hill Road.

If the grant is approved later this year, officials will start design work on a 1,200-foot-long, 5-foot-wide sidewalk along the north side of the narrow, county road.

The grant would also cover a 350-foot-long sidewalk along the western side of Pruyn Avenue, a short side street near the school that is often crowded with bus, car and pedestrian traffic.

According to town drawings, the sidewalks wouldn’t cut into any properties, but workers would possibly have to remove and replace mailboxes.

The grant is part of the “Safe Routes to School” program created by the Federal Highway Administration in 2005. The local grants are administered by the state Department of Transportation.

A total of $32.1 million was allocated to New York for statewide projects.

Two years ago, town officials agreed to install flashing lights near a school zone sign in an effort to slow traffic on Pruyn Hill Road.

“First and foremost is safety,” said Nelson Ronsvalle, Halfmoon’s grant coordinator. “There are a lot of children that come up that hill.”

The district’s three schools are located in Halfmoon just west of Mechanicville. Students who walk from the city to the school use a sidewalk on South Street.

However, once students cross into Halfmoon, the street becomes Pruyn Hill Road and the sidewalk disappears.

Aaron Fensterer, a 10th-grader at the high school, said that he had a close call once with a pair of young drivers who were racing as he walked on Pruyn Hill Road.

“There was two of them, and they just came down at like 100 miles per hour,” he said. “There’s no real space to get out of the way there.”

Numerous cars and buses passed Fensterer and a friend as they walked from the school to a Mechanicville gym on Thursday.

Both Fensterer and his friend, 10th-grader Sam McBride, said they were in favor of sidewalks on the road.

“I have seen some students that struggle coming up the hill, and they have to walk over and around snowbanks where sidewalks would be,” said middle school Principal Kevin Duffy. “Sidewalks being put in is a really good idea.”

Duffy said the road was even more dangerous before the town added flashing lights in the school zone.

“There was a lot of fairly high-speed activity,” he said. “It was a literal speedway going up and down that road.”

If the grant is approved, all of the 26 middle school teachers will devote at least 40 hours each to teach students about road safety and the benefits of exercise.

Officials estimate that instruction would be worth $62,400, based on average teacher salaries and benefits.

“We want to use that as kind of a springboard for students to think about their own exercise and their own well-being,” Duffy said. “I think the physical education component is a strong one.”

Halfmoon is also contributing $28,590 to the project for construction costs, bringing the proposed project total to $249,740.

If the grant is approved, construction would begin in March 2010 and be completed by the start of the 2010-11 school year.

According to the grant application, 306 of the middle school’s 326 students live within two miles of the school. The application was sent to the state earlier this week.

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