Council OKs $1M for school traffic safety

CITY HALL — Six local schools will receive nearly $1 million in pedestrian safety improvements under a construction project given the green light Tuesday by the City Council.

In 2009, Glendale won a $900,000 state grant for the Safe Routes to School program, which is aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities and increasing walking and bicycling among students.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to spend the grant and roughly $100,000 in local transportation funds on improvements at Balboa, Columbus, Dunsmore, R.D. White and Verdugo Woodlands elementary schools and Wilson Middle School.

The variety of improvements — which include more visible crosswalk markings, the addition of curb extensions, which shorten the crossing length, and a mid-block raised crosswalk near Balboa Elementary — are aimed at giving students safer and more frequent crossing options.

“It’s a great thing; anything we can do to make the students safer,” Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.

Glendale has long been plagued by pedestrian and vehicular accidents, some near local schools. In 2008, 11-year-old Toll Middle School student Meri Nalbandyan was hit and killed by a motorist while using a crosswalk.

The Safe Routes to School program is one of several city projects aimed at making city streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists.

The enhancements span more than a dozen intersections and were formulated with the input of school administrators, city officials and engineers.

“This is part of our multi-pronged effort to continue to address the pedestrian safety issues … in every way we can,” said Glendale Public Works Director Steve Zurn. “This is something we worked very closely with the school district on.”

While the majority of the Safe Routes to School grant supports the infrastructure improvements, it also includes educational and enforcement measures, such as walk-to-school programs and amped-up speeding enforcement. The money will also pay for bike racks at the schools.

Construction on the improvements is slated to begin in August and last roughly two months.

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