ASHTABULA — The city will soon begin construction on a project to increase safety for students who walk or ride a bicycle to the Ashtabula Lakeside Elementary Campus. 

City Manager Jim Timonere is looking to enter into a $47,000 agreement with GPD Group of Youngstown to provide construction inspection and administration of the project. At Monday night's City Council meeting, the council approved his request for an ordinance to allow him to do so.

"Construction will begin this summer," he said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is paying for 100 percent of the project.

The new sidewalks, signage and bike lanes will be the end result of a local effort started several years ago to encourage and enable students in grades kindergarten through sixth to safely walk or ride their bicycle to school.

In 2014, Timonere filed an application with ODOT through the Safe Routes to School program after ODOT approved the city’s travel plan.

The project calls for construction of 7,000 feet of 5-foot-by-4-foot sidewalks, providing the city with $500,000 worth of sidewalk.

The sidewalk and bike lanes will be along Cemetery Road and Wade Avenue.

The Ohio Safe Routes to School program is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Since the program began in 2008, walking and bicycling to school has increased in Ohio, according to ODOT.

The first step in developing the SRTS program in Ashtabula was to create a school travel plan. The plan outlines the community’s intentions for enabling students to walk or bicycle as they travel to and from the new elementary campus.

Several community leaders, parents, teachers and school administrators came together six years ago at Harbor Topky Library to make this plan a reality. Ashtabula resident Kevin Grippi led the charge, along with local author, Carl Feather, who wrote the plan.

Surveys were sent to parents of kindergarten through eighth grade children in the school district asking their opinions on the current walking and biking environment.

Grippi surveyed the students who attend the campus schools, asking what they would like to see in a travel plan.

Three years ago, a team of teachers, parents and community leaders walked to the campus from nearby neighborhoods to decide where the best place would be to build the sidewalks. They focused on the areas within two miles of the campus. The Safe Routes to School program gave $584 million to 10,400 U.S. schools from 2005 to 2010, according to its website.

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