Genoa Township trustees gave the thumbs up for seeking $200,000 in federal grant funds slated for the "Safe Routes to School" program. The township would provide a $50,000 match for engineering on the project.

Genoa Township trustees gave the thumbs up for seeking $200,000 in federal grant funds slated for the "Safe Routes to School" program. The township would provide a $50,000 match for engineering on the project.

The Ohio Department of Transportation administers the grant the township wants to use for roadway improvements on Big Walnut Road and Grand Oak Boulevard, to aid pedestrian s crossing the intersection near Olentangy Walnut Creek Elementary School and for bicycle racks for Westerville's Fouse and Alcott elementary schools.

The goal of the "Safe Routes to School" program is improvements that encourage students to walk or ride their bicycles to school, making for a more healthy life choice, said Joe Clase, assistant township administrator.

The improvements near Walnut Creek Elementary would use most of the grant funds.

They include: installing an American with Disabilities Act-compliant crosswalk with a high intensity actuated crosswalk (HAWK) signal at the Big Walnut Road and Grand Oak Boulevard intersection; adding 20-mph school signs with flashing beacons along the roads along with "your speed" radar indicators on Big Walnut Road by Walnut Creek Elementary; and putting in a crosswalk across Grand Oak Boulevard at the Walnut Creek Elementary School entrance.

The improvements are recommended in the "Genoa Township School Travel Plan: For Safe Routes to School Program" that trustees approved in March 2011.

Developing the plan began in 2009 and included input from representatives of the township, Delaware General Health District, the Delaware County Engineer's Office and the three school districts in the township - Big Walnut, Olentangy and Westerville.

Trustee Rick Carfagna said, "I would be in favor of an improved pedestrian crossing. There is a safety hazard at that intersection that we should look at."

Trustees Barbara Lewis and Karl Gebhardt said they want to be sure area residents want a crosswalk there. They weren't sure they wanted to encourage pedestrian traffic on Big Walnut Road, which has a 45-mph speed limit.

Chief deputy engineer for the county, Rob Riley, said the HAWK light is designed to call attention to the intersection.

The system has overhead lights that flash yellow, warning drivers that there is a pedestrian walkway and red when they should stop.

Lewis said, "Are you aware of sentiment from the community wanting a crosswalk instead of busing? I think they'd prefer busing."

Olentangy buses the students on the south side of the intersection, Clase said. "This is not to replace busing. The Safe Routes plan is to provide a safe method and raise awareness for any one choosing to walk to school and exercise."

"Genoa stops just past that," Lewis said, noting that Orange Township, whose residents would likely benefit from it or the schools, might consider contributing to the $50,000 cost.

Clase said he would talk with those officials.

Lewis said, "I can think of a lot less money that could be spent for encouraging an active lifestyle (compared to) $50,000 for an engineering study."

Riley said applying for the grant doesn't lock the township into the HAWK light.

He encouraged trustees to seek the grant while funds are available because the federal government is considering cutting the funding to the program.

"This may be the only opportunity to apply for these funds," he said.

"We would need assistance from a consulting engineer who specializes in traffic signals," Riley said. The township would have to pay $50,000 for an environmental study, he said.

Clase said the township park board also is interested in people having a safe crossing to township parkland and trails.

Documents from Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa's office show that of the total $2.55 trillion of property market value in the township, 63 percent is in the Westerville City School District boundaries, 21 percent is in the Olentangy Local School District boundaries, and 16 percent is in Big Walnut Local Schools boundaries.

Property tax is the townships primary source of revenue.