By next school year, walking to school will get safer for children in Mechanicville, after years of close calls for students along a stretch of road lacking sidewalks.
Though no serious accidents have happened on Pruyn Hill Road near Mechanicville city schools, the near-misses are “close enough for us,” said Halfmoon Town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth.
“We don’t want to wait until something happens,” she said. The close calls include times when one car rear-ended another and ended up on the shoulder, where a child could have been walking.
After four years of applying for funds to build sidewalks to the Mechanicville City School District campus, which is actually in Halfmoon, the town and the school district finally have a grant through the state Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program.
The $259,000 grant will fund construction of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on Pruyn Hill Road from the intersection of Prospect Avenue to the Mechanicville Middle School sidewalk entrance. It also pays for a sidewalk on the western side of nearby Pruyn Avenue. Construction will start in the spring with anticipated spring or summer completion, Wormuth said.
The timing coincides with Mechanicville recently finishing its South Street Hill project, in which sidewalks heading up the hill toward the school were installed; they ended at the intersection with Prospect Street where South Street becomes Pruyn Hill Road. The new grant will complete the route.
In addition to students being able to walk or bicycle more safely, people who live in the housing developments on the Halfmoon side will be able to use the sidewalks to walk or jog down into the city of Mechanicville, either for exercise or shopping, Wormuth said.
“I think it’ll be great for people of all ages,” she said.
The Halfmoon grant is among $26.5 million in federal Safe Routes to School grants administered by the state DOT. The funds are designed to encourage students to walk or bicycle to school.
Saratoga Springs was given $246,617 for sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian signals near Geyser Road Elementary School, a spot that has been a priority for people who want to make more trails to make busy Geyser Road safer for pedestrians.
Right now, students aren’t allowed to walk to school there, because it seems too dangerous, Mayor Scott Johnson said. But they will be allowed to after the improvements take place.
One-fifth of the city’s population lives in area around Geyser Road Elementary School, including the large Geyser Crest housing development.
Johnson said about 60 percent of the school’s 391 students will be able to walk or bike to school with the improvements.
The changes include connecting a few existing sidewalk segments on the south side of Geyser Road, lengthening the walk area from Casino Drive to Tiffany Place, and installing a pedestrian crossing signal.
Construction is expected to begin this fall and be finished by the spring of 2014.
The sidewalks and pedestrian crossing also will form part of a proposed Geyser Road multiuse path, for which the City Council has allocated $150,000 this year for construction drawings to be developed. Trails advocates would like to see the path go on Geyser Road from the intersection with Route 50 to the Milton town line.
Other projects in the Capital Region include:
• Schenectady: $379,742 for sidewalk, crosswalk and pedestrian signal installation near Zoller Elementary School.
• Malta: $250,000 for sidewalk, crosswalks and school zone signs near Chango Elementary School.
• Stillwater: $14,485 for a driver speed feedback trailer near Stillwater Central School.
• St. Johnsville: $195,457 for curb ramps, crosswalks and signage near the DH Robbins Elementary School and St. Johnsville Jr./Sr. High School.
• Sharon Springs: $161,352 for sidewalks in the Sharon Springs Central School District.