Following a year of planning, a federally assisted program to encourage safe walking and exercise among local students and residents is expected to resume next year.

Following a year of planning, a federally assisted program to encourage safe walking and exercise among local students and residents is expected to resume next year.

In summer 2011, crews from the city of Pickerington and Violet Township completed construction of approximately 7,000 lineal feet of new sidewalks from the Summerfield subdivision to Fairfield Elementary, as well as a multiuse path around Diley Middle School.

The work represented the first phase of a local project tied to the federal government's Safe Routes to Schools program, which provides funding to states for projects to connect neighborhoods to schools via multiuse paths. Local officials have said they also hope it will encourage more active lifestyles among students and adults.

Although no SRTS construction projects are slated to take place in 2012, representatives of the Pickerington Local School District and a citizens-led SRTS Committee last week said more sidewalks and paths are planned for the near future.

That impending work is expected to include the construction of sidewalks from the Chevington Village and Melrose subdivisions to Violet Elementary School.

"Sidewalks around Violet Elementary within Chevington Village and Melrose will total about 4,300 lineal feet, about 0.8 mile, and be constructed in 2013," Violet Township Engineer Greg Butcher said.

Additionally, new sidewalks are planned along Long and Diley roads to Pickerington Elementary, and future plans call for the construction of sidewalks and multipurpose paths from the Woodsfield subdivision to Harmon Middle School and along Hill Road South to Ridgeview Junior High.

"Plans are being done for sidewalks for Pickerington Elementary School (along) Long and Diley for construction in 2014," Pickerington City Engineer Greg Bachman said. "Plus, another application has been submitted for Harmon Middle School (from) Woodsfield Subdivision and Ridgeview Junior High School (from) Hill Road South."

The SRTS project was launched after the Ohio Department of Transportation in April 2009 awarded $3.7 million in federal transportation funds to 13 communities to build multiuse paths, bike racks and sidewalks near schools and to improve lighting and signs near school zones.

In March 2010, ODOT awarded a $279,990 contract to Trucco Construction Co. Inc. of Delaware, Ohio, for the local project.

Pickerington also received a $248,021 grant from ODOT for the project's infrastructure improvements and the SRTS Committee secured $43,530 for educational materials and events to encourage walking and biking to school.

Some of the latter funding was used to purchase some 3,500 bicycle helmets to be given to every PLSD fifth- and sixth-grader this school year.

In April 2011, ODOT awarded $333,000 to connect a multiuse path to Pickerington Elementary.

"All the grants are 100 percent, so the city and township are not spending any funds on these projects, other than staff and volunteer member time," Bachman said.

While the main objective of SRTS across Ohio has been to provide areas for students to safely walk and bike to school, the sidewalks and paths also are being promoted as recreational additions for the general public.

Bachman said they are serving the intended purposes because both students and adults throughout the community are using them.

"The project has been very successful," he said.

"It has brought needed funds to our community to add sidewalks in our school areas. These sidewalks increase safety, encourage physical fitness and help neighborhood interaction."