Portsmouth, OH – The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently announced projects selected statewide for funding, and the City of Portsmouth Safe Routes to School Infrastructure application was designated a priority area for implementation and awarded $400,000 to develop safer walking and biking conditions around Portsmouth Public Schools.
Traffic speeds and the safety of crossing Waller Street and Gallia Street, where Portsmouth High School, Portsmouth Middle and Elementary Schools are located, rose to the top of the list as major areas of focus for safety improvement around the school complex. The two schools are located across Gallia Street from each other on a major through street with heavy traffic.
Projects submitted from across the state were ranked based on many factors including percentage of students expected to benefit, traffic speed, crash rate, improved bike and pedestrian connectivity, economic status, delivery of past ODOT projects and available funding. Once ranked, projects were reviewed by a selection committee comprised of ODOT staff along with representatives from education, health, and advocacy groups.
“I’m very excited that we received funding for the project,” said Tracy Shearer, Portsmouth City Community Development Director, who was instrumental in coordinating project partnerships and submitting the grant request to ODOT. The first step in the process started last year working directly with the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, an ODOT-designated Regional Transportation Planning Organization, to invite community stakeholders to begin work on developing an Active Transportation Plan for the county.
“OVRDC played a huge role and assisted the City of Portsmouth in acquiring ODOT funds to pay for the Scioto County Active Transportation Plan, which was instrumental in the scoring criteria of this grant. Stephanie Gilbert (OVRDC), Cait Harley and Dianne Kahal-Berman (ODOT) were involved throughout the entire process and we are so thankful for the services provided to our region,” said Director Shearer.
“OVRDC is very excited for the City of Portsmouth’s Safe routes to School grant award. This is a big step to improving safety for the students and others who walk and bike near Portsmouth City Schools. We were honored to work together with the city and county leaders, as well as ODOT, Toole Design, and a great group of local stakeholders to develop the Active Transportation Plan for the area,” said Stephanie Gilbert, OVRDC Transportation Coordinator. Gilbert is confident there will be other opportunities that will come as a result of the Scioto County Active Transportation Plan, and OVRDC will continue to work with the city and county to pursue other grants for community and economic development projects.
Portsmouth City Schools are situated on particularly busy streets. Waller Street is an important walking route to Portsmouth City schools from the north. On Waller Street, current conditions on the block adjacent to the Junior/ Senior High School are conducive to excessive vehicle speeding and conditions for crossing to either side of the road are unsafe. As well, exits from the school do not lead directly to safe crossing locations, leading students to cross the road mid-block.
Adjacent to the schools on Gallia Street, the crossing at Union Street is an important crossing location and has previously been the site of crashes and several near misses. During arrival and drop-off, vehicles line up along the roadway, which can reduce visibility of people waiting to cross. On both streets, there are few elements that warn drivers they are effectively entering a school campus area where children are accessing sidewalks, crosswalks, and roadways.
The Safe Routes to School infrastructure project will help improve safety for students, pedestrians, drivers, and all who access the area. For follow up or additional information on the grant award, contact the City of Portsmouth Community Development Director Tracy Shearer, firstname.lastname@example.org.