Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools students soon will have a safe path to Jefferson Elementary School, thanks to new sidewalks through Safe Routes to School.

Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools students soon will have a safe path to Jefferson Elementary School, thanks to new sidewalks through Safe Routes to School.

City engineer Rob Priestas said new sidewalks in the Jefferson school neighborhood are scheduled to be completed within two weeks.

In 2012, Gahanna received Safe Routes to School grant funds for the project via the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"This project will increase the connectivity to schools by installing sidewalks on critical routes used by students to access schools," Priestas said. "The project is near completion and, according to ODOT, is expected to be complete in the next week or two."

Sidewalks were constructed or are in progress at Cherry Bottom Road between Johnstown Road and Springbrook Drive; Johnstown Road between Cherry Bottom Road and Colony Place; Heil Drive between Johnstown Road and Laura Drive; and Laura Drive between Heil Drive and Jennie Drive.

The project is partially funded by the ODOT Safe Routes to School program.

Grant funds covered all of the design cost in the amount of $73,412, and $171,588 of the construction cost.

The total bid construction cost was $356,797, with Gahanna paying a local match of $185,209 from the capital-improvement fund, Priestas said.

Safe Routes to School programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school, according to Priestas.

"Safety is of utmost importance for families whose students walk or bike to school," said Kate Moening, chairwoman of the Gahanna Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee. "These sidewalks create a safer link for students and their families who want to walk to and from Jefferson Elementary and also provide better connections for folks of all ages and abilities in our community, in an area that had no pedestrian connectivity."

The advisory committee researched and recommended Safe Routes as a program to improve connectivity and safety in the community in 2006.

The Gahanna Parks & Recreation Department was awarded funds from ODOT in 2008.

The parks-recreation department, in partnership with the Gahanna Service Department, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, Gahanna police and other community organizations, developed school travel plans for Lincoln and Jefferson elementary schools, Middle School East and Middle School West during the 2008-09 school year, as required for additional infrastructure and noninfrastructure funding.

Gahanna received infrastructure and noninfrastructure awards in 2010 and 2012.

Safe Routes to School is a national and international program with the mission to improve children's safety when walking and bicycling.

Federal transportation funds have been allocated to all 50 states to support state and now regional-level funding and programs since 2005, according to information from ODOT.

Although changes were made to funding in the MAP21 federal transportation bill in 2012, ODOT has maintained a Safe Routes standalone program and awards up to $4 million annually in applications.