CANYONVILLE — The Oregon Transportation Commission has awarded Douglas County a $2 million grant that aims to make it safer for students, staff and parents to travel to Canyonville School.
The Safe Routes to School grant was awarded to the Douglas County government, along with the South Umpqua School District, Douglas County Education Service District and Thrive Umpqua, formerly known as the Blue Zones Project.
The announcement comes on the heels of the county’s completion of its Carnes Road Improvement Project near Green Elementary School, which was also funded by a Safe Routes to School grant.
“The school zone improvement project for Canyonville School is truly the culmination of many years of hard work and collaboration with the local Canyonville community, schools, and tribal members working hand-in-hand with our engineers in the Douglas County Public Works Department,” Douglas County Commissioner Tom Kress said in a press release. “We are very fortunate to have submitted another successful grant application.”
The work will be done on North Main Street, where the school is located, and Kress said improvements to that area have been pursued since the 1990s.
Safety concerns there include speeding vehicles, poor visibility from driveways and street crossings, on-street parking and a lack of bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
All that has made pedestrian travel “very difficult and often times hazardous,” Kress said.
“We are confident that the improvements being made through the combination of grant and county funding for this project will address these concerns, and clearly define a safer school zone for students and provide a safer pedestrian path for everyone in the community,” he said.
The improvements planned include installing continuous sidewalks with ramps for wheelchair access and adding bicycle lanes on both sides of the street between Gazley Bridge Road and 1st Street.
Other improvements will include a rapid flashing pedestrian beacon, new school zone warning signs and new painted pavement and curb markings near the school.
The program requires matching funds from the local entity that receives the grant. Douglas County will contribute about $1.3 million, which will cover about 40% of the project’s cost.
South Umpqua School District Superintendent Kate McLaughlin said in a press release the improvements will make it safer for pedestrians and bicycle riders to access the school.
“Student safety is always a priority,” she said.
Douglas Education Service District Safe Routes to School Facilitator Janelle Newton said in a press release safe infrastructure is vital to educational programs.
“We teach kids how to safely navigate streets as pedestrians and while riding bikes, but without proper infrastructure they cannot put those skills to use,” she said.
Thrive Umpqua Executive Director Jessica Hand said in a press release these kinds of improvements “pave the way to encourage community members of all ages to walk and bike more.”
“We are thrilled to see schools around Douglas County participating in Safe Routes to School, and hope to encourage more to get involved in these programs that can really make a big difference in overall well-being for a lifetime, starting at a young age,” she said.