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Grants help bring safety to school zones

Mon., Oct. 27, 2008

Joe Paolino, a parent volunteer at Mountainside Middle School near Colbert, worries that a student will be hit by a vehicle while crossing the busy four-lane stretch of road in front of the school.

He often can be found wearing a vest and waving orange flags, helping children cross Day-Mt. Spokane Road in front of the new school.

Drivers frequently ignore the 20 mph posted school zone and fly through the area at 45 mph or more, even as kids are waiting to cross.

“I think there’s a pretty high possibility that something definitely could go wrong,” he said as children left school last week.

Paolino can only volunteer so often as a crossing guard because of his work schedule. “We need more people,” he said.

He is also urging government officials to approve money for new signs and other improvements to increase the safety at Mountainside.

Principal Craig Busch has applied for a $52,000 Safe Routes to School grant from the state to pay for solar-powered flashing beacons, speed feedback radar signs, crosswalk and curb improvements and a bicycle lane. The grant program also pays for pedestrian and bicycle safety education events as well as an enforcement emphasis patrol.

Mountainside is one of a half-dozen schools in the Spokane area seeking assistance under the Safe Routes program, which is making $74 million available to schools over an eight-year period. The idea is to encourage walking and bike riding as a safe and healthy alternative to vehicle travel.

At Northwood Middle School, officials hope to install a pedestrian-activated stoplight on Farwell Road at Pittsburg Street to help children cross the busy arterial from the neighborhood to the south. Also, the Northwood proposal calls for education and enforcement activities.

At Moran Prairie Elementary School, another grant would pay for an extension of the Ben Burr pedestrian and bicycle trail along the north side of 57th Avenue to a crosswalk in front of the school.

While keeping children from being struck by vehicles is a major goal of the Safe Routes program, it also is promoted as a way to cut global energy consumption, slow the release of greenhouse gases and reduce traffic congestion.

Across the country, 21 to 25 percent of all morning vehicle trips are made by parents driving children to school, said Jen Cole, program director of the Safe Routes program for a nonprofit Seattle organization known as Feet First, which is dedicated to “healthy and sustainable transportation practices.”

On Nov. 13, Safe Routes is holding its second annual summit in Spokane at the Red Lion Inn at the Park. The keynote speaker will be Arthur Orsini, internationally recognized program manager for school travel planning in British Columbia. Orsini lives without a car and is the parent volunteer coordinator for the secondary school in his neighborhood in East Vancouver.

Walking survey

Transportation and health officials are asking the public for help. They are developing a regional pedestrian plan to sort out projects, programs and policies that promote walking in Spokane and need public input. The feedback is being sought through a succession of surveys done over the Web. A current survey follows one done in June. To take the survey, go to the Spokane Regional Transportation Council at and follow the link on the pedestrian survey.

Help name the trail

Public help is also being sought by the state Department of Transportation for naming a pedestrian-bike path being built in conjunction with a new north Spokane freeway.

The 10.5-mile North Spokane Corridor route will have a trail parallel to it initially from Wandermere to Hillyard and then in the future to Interstate 90 in the East Central Neighborhood. It is expected to connect with existing trails, including the Centennial and Ben Burr trails, with scenic viewpoints of the Spokane area along the route, DOT officials said in a news release.

The first segment of the trail will open next year from Farwell Road to Freya Street.

Suggestions for the trail name can be made at the Spokane Corridor Web site at Click on the “help name the trail.”

Road work

Starting today, Aubrey L. White Parkway from Downriver Drive to the city wastewater treatment plant will be closed to traffic for up to two weeks for work on a combined sewer overflow system.

East Tenth Avenue from Rockwood Boulevard to Sherman Street will be closed through Thursday to install barriers along a rock wall.

Valley Chapel Road north of Spangle Creek Road is closed for construction of a new bridge.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at

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