By NIKKI YOUNK
NORWAY - With assistance from a $391,085 grant, the city of Norway will soon be a safer place for children to walk and bike to school.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
From left, Norway-Vulcan Area Schools Superintendent Lou Steigerwald, Norway City Manager Ray Anderson, and Norway Elementary and Middle School Principal Brad Grayvold look over a map of the Norway sidewalks that will be reconstructed as part of a Safe Routes to School grant that the city and school received.
Officials from the city of Norway and Norway-Vulcan Area Schools recently learned that they won a Safe Routes to School grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
The majority of the grant money will go toward infrastructure improvements such as repairing and widening sidewalks, installing ADA-compliant ramps on the ends of sidewalks, and placing crosswalk markings on adjacent streets.
Targeted sidewalks are on Section Street from U.S. 2 to Fourth Avenue, Walnut Street from U.S. 2 to Fourth Avenue, Fourth Avenue from Main Street to Section Street and from Chestnut Street to Walnut Street, and Second Avenue from Main Street to Section Street.
Approximately $7,000 of the grant money will be used for non-infrastructure projects such as signage, promotional materials, educational programs, and safety patrol vests.
According to Norway Elementary and Middle School Principal Brad Grayvold, teachers, parents, administrators, city representatives, and community members have been working on the Safe Routes to School grant process for about six years now.
"The Safe Routes to School program promotes walking and bicycling within a collaborative community framework," he said. "The program will help children at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools get more physically active, and will help with safety, rising bus transportation costs, traffic challenges, and form a stronger connection between the school and the community."
Grayvold pointed out that more and more students in the district have been walking or biking to school. In fact, the school's bike rack is usually filled to capacity, he said.
Norway-Vulcan Area Schools Superintendent Lou Steigerwald added that children will not be the only ones to benefit from the grant.
"This is a great example of school and civic government working together to do great things for Norway residents," he said. "Students and residents will have improved and safer routes on which to walk."
Although the school must apply for the Safe Routes to School grant, the city receives the grant and is responsible for carrying out the infrastructure projects.
Norway City Manager Ray Anderson explained that the city must contribute $35,000 in a local match to pay for engineering costs.
"It's a great investment," he said. "We're hoping it will encourage adults to use sidewalks too."
Anderson noted that many people prefer to walk in the streets because the sidewalks are too narrow for them to walk side by side. Sidewalks included in the Safe Routes to School grant will be widened to five feet.
In addition, Anderson hopes that the educational portion of the project will teach children and adults that bicycles are generally supposed to travel on streets, not sidewalks. Norway has a specific ordinance prohibiting bicycles from traveling on Main Street's sidewalks.
Now that the Safe Routes to School grant has been awarded, the city's engineering firm must submit a plan to the state. The project will then be bid out through MDOT.
If all goes well, construction could start in early June.
Anderson anticipates that sidewalks and crosswalks closer to the school would be fixed first to ensure that they are complete by the time school resumes next fall.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org