Canal Winchester Local School district residents who attended a Safe Routes to School public forum last week identified Gender Road as the major obstacle for elementary students walking to school.

Canal Winchester Local School district residents who attended a Safe Routes to School public forum last week identified Gender Road as the major obstacle for elementary students walking to school.

Village public works director Matt Peoples and consultants with Evans, Mechwart, Hambleton & Tilton Inc. (EMH&T) held the forum Jan. 21 at the Frances Steube Community Center in order to assess obstacles students face when walking to school.

Peoples said the Ohio Department of Transportation awarded Canal Winchester $7,000 of as part of a nationwide program called Safe Routes to School. Village officials have used the money to fund information sessions with an eye toward creating a school travel plan, Peoples said.

Resident input will be used to devise a plan for making pedestrian routes safer for elementary students.

"It's just a study to find the barriers to walking and biking," said Susan Fisher, project manager with EMH&T.

Officials asked residents to mark safe, cautionary and dangerous spots for pedestrian travel on a map of the Canal Winchester area. Most marked areas along Gender Road, especially the intersection at Gender Road and Fox Hill Drive, which leads into the Indian Trail and Winchester Trail elementary school parking lots.

Residents also left comments on the map mentioning their concerns about students walking across U.S. 33 from the north and Lithopolis Road from the south.

During another section of the forum, officials laid out images of students walking or biking to school on various sidewalks and bike paths. Residents indicated that the image of a crossing guard marshalling students across an intersection was the safest looking image; second to that was an image of students walking on a sidewalk approximately eight feet wide.

Fisher said information collected at last Wednesday's forum will be assessed and forwarded to representatives of Stantec, the engineering firm contracted by ODOT.

"We're going to have (the plan) off to Stantec within a month probably," Fisher said.

Peoples said a school travel plan is due to ODOT officials by May.

"It'll be a pretty collaborative effort," said Jim Dziatkowicz, landscape architect with EMH&T. "The objective of this is to secure future funding."

"Working with the school district is going to be absolutely instrumental," Fisher added.

More information about the Safe Routes to School program is available online www.saferoutesinfo.org.

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