The city is spending more than $780,000 in state grants to install sidewalks, curbs, gutters and other improvements to make it safer for kids to walk to two Modesto elementary schools.
The two grants are from California's Safe Routes to School program and are for improvements near James Marshall and El Vista schools.
Modesto received a $423,376 grant for the Marshall improvements. Modesto partnered with Stanislaus County on the grant, and the two are each providing a $21,169 match for the grant.
The work will include installing about 650 feet of sidewalk on the east side of Sutter Avenue between Elsie Street and Rouse Avenue, as well as curbs and gutters, replacing the dirt that now lines that side of Sutter.
That section of the avenue is just south of Marshall.
"They need it," said Nathan Emery, 30, as he waited Wednesday to pick up his 7-year-old son, Adam James, from Marshall. "It's really needed in the winter. The kids have to watch out for the puddles."
Workers also will install flashing lights at Rouse and Elsie so children can safely cross the busy street on their way to and from school.
The lights will activate when a pedestrian presses the button to cross the street.
Marshall's principal, Scott Genzmer, said his school is excited about the project.
"This is absolutely important," he said.
Modesto received a $362,530 grant for the El Vista work and will provide the required $40,281 match.
The work includes installing 2,181 feet of sidewalks, as well as curbs and gutters and streetlights along portions of Roble Avenue, Trask Lane, and Viola and Bellamy streets, which are east of the school in residential neighborhoods.
Opening bids soon
Modesto expects to open the bids on the two projects this month, said Jeff Barnes, the city's traffic engineer.
Barnes said construction should take place over the summer, with the work completed by the time children return to school in August.
Barnes said Modesto has received Safe Routes to School grants from the state and federal government for about a decade. Barnes said the city last received funding a couple of years ago for sidewalks, streetlights and other improvements on Conant Avenue near Chrysler Elementary School.
"We are trying to improve our community and make it better for pedestrians and everyone else," he said.
The grants are competitive. Barnes said the two recent grants were among the 85 out of 400 applications the state funded in its 2010-11 funding cycle.
State oversight required
Barnes said because of state involvement, it takes time to complete projects. The state needs to sign off on the design work and other aspects of a project before it can move forward.
The state says the purpose of Safe Routes to School is to enable more children to walk and bike to school by removing the barriers such as a lack of sidewalks that prevent them from doing so.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.