published Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Three greater Chattanooga area cities get 'Safe Route' grants

Three area cities got a taste of a $2.1 million Safe Routes to School grant to improve walking and biking routes to schools.

Gov. Bill Haslam's office announced the awards to 15 Tennessee communities on Friday, with Athens, Tullahoma and Winchester netting a combined $428,206 in grant money, according to a state news release.

The $2.1 million going out statewide will be used by multiple schools to improve sidewalks, crosswalks, signs and safe walking and biking educational activities, state officials said in the release.

The program is aimed at making "bicycling and walking to school a safer, more appealing and healthier alternative for students in kindergarten through eighth grade," officials said.

Winchester officials say grant funds totaling $90,324 will be used for improvements in the area of Clark Memorial School where dangerous traffic has been constant concern.

City Administrator Beth Rhoton said the grant award came on the city's third try.

"We've had to change our application a little bit. We have a school in the city, Clark Memorial, that is just a couple of blocks off of our downtown area," Rhoton said. Clark Memorial is the only Franklin County school inside the city limits.

"We have kids all in the downtown area that actually walk, and one block from the school is a major thoroughfare, Highway 130. It has over 5,000 cars a day on it," she said. "We have had multiple accidents there."

An earlier application sought funding for a crosswalk that the city finally funded on its own because of safety concerns, she said. The money will fund training for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Similar work is planned in the other two cities in the region.

In Athens, $170,446 in grant funds will go toward improvements around Ingleside Elementary School on Ingleside Drive. Athens has five schools in its system. In Tullahoma, $167,436 in grant funds will be used around East Lincoln Elementary School on East Lincoln Street, officials said. Tullahoma has seven schools in its municipal system.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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