Pamela Householder can see Harrison Lane Elementary School from her front door. But helping her daughter, who uses a wheelchair, get to her classes is a complicated journey because there are no sidewalks.
Householder and her daughter Dacie, who has cerebral palsy, travel along East Cheryl Avenue, where cars are parked on the side of the road and traffic is constant.
“Pushing a wheelchair on a street is not safe. She (Dacie) certainly can’t do it,” Householder said.
But thanks to the city of Hurst and funding from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program, Dacie and other schoolchildren will soon have safer routes to school.
Greg Dickens, Hurst’s executive director of public works, said with the TxDOT grant, the work to build the new sidewalks could begin next month and should take about four months to complete.
Michelle Lazo, Hurst planning and community development director, said city officials met with the principals from the Harrison Lane and Hurst Junior High schools concerned about safety and watched where children were walking in the mornings and afternoon.
“Kids would walk out into the street and cross where it wasn’t safe,” Lazo said. Others walked through yards.
Grants have poured into Northeast Tarrant cities
Hurst is among many Northeast Tarrant County cities that have benefited from the Safe Routes to School Program grants.
For this current project, Hurst will pay for the work up front, and receive an 80 percent reimbursement from the state. The amount of the grant is $489,515. Along with the sidewalks, the grant for Hurst also will pay for flashing signals.
The program was established by the 77th Legislature in 2001 to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety for children at or near schools, said Michael Peters, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Peters said Safe Routes to School was established as a competitive construction program paid for with state and federal funds as well as local contributions.
Since the program began, it has provided funding for 203 projects throughout the state for $73 million, with 12 of those in Tarrant County, costing $4 million.
Those cities include Haltom City and Richland Hills that each received three grants; Keller and Southlake each with two grants; and Grapevine with one.
Peters said 12 additional projects have been approved for funding but are still in development.
Those include seven projects in Fort Worth and one each in Aledo, Azle, Burleson, Keller and North Richland Hills. The total estimated cost of these upcoming projects is $10 million, Peters said.
Our piece of the pie
Aledo was awarded an $833,880 grant to build sidewalks on Old Annetta Road. The city will contribute $208,470 toward the project.
Azle school district received a $301,116 grant to build a pedestrian walkway for Walnut Creek Elementary School. The school district will contribute $75,279.
Burleson will get $1.7 million from Safe Routes to School to pay for sidewalks on Irene Street from Gardens Boulevard to Johnson Avenue, where there are several schools in the area. The city’s local match will be $430,255.
Fort Worth won grants for seven projects totaling $3.2 million. They are CC Moss Elementary School, $507,909; Diamond Hill Elementary School, $790,533; W.J. Turner Elementary School, $541,572; M.L. Phillips Elementary School, $551,405; D. McRae Elementary School, $547,892; Bonnie Brae Elementary School, $375,958; and Daggett Elementary School/Montessori School, $602,673.
Keller received $770,000 grant money to build a sidewalk connecting neighborhoods to Willis Lane Elementary School and Messiah Lutheran Academy in the south part of the city. Construction could start in 2019.
The 4,200-foot trail will be on the east side of Whitely Road from Edenderry Drive to Rapp Road, where it will continue east to Willis Lane. The trail will cost $970,000, and Keller’s portion will be about $193,000.
North Richland Hills was just awarded a $211,000 grant for sidewalks around Smithfield Middle School on Main Street. The grant will pay for 2,796 feet of sidewalk, crosswalks and curb reconstruction to accommodate bikes and pedestrians, said Clayton Comstock, planning manager for North Richland Hills.
It will also pay for a bicycle rack at the school. The city will contribute $52,784. Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.
For Householder, having sidewalks in her neighborhood can’t come fast enough.
“We are constantly dodging cars and constantly having to look and make sure nobody is going to pop out and hit us,” she said. “Sidewalks are just so much safer.”
Correspondent Nicholas Sakelaris and staff writer Alice Murray contributed to this report.