The city of Galveston will pursue improvements to walking paths near schools after a consulting agency pointed out several incomplete sidewalks, obstructed school zone signs and unusable routes for people with disabilities.
City officials Wednesday got the go-ahead to begin planning for a “Safe Routes to School” program, an effort that would make sidewalks and ramps more usable in areas students frequently use on the way to class.
“Safe routes to school, I feel, is our obligation both as a committee and as good stewards of our city,” said Kyle Hockersmith, director of Public Works and staff member on the Intermodal Transportation Committee.
“Safe Routes to School” is also a wider, national effort to make school zones more walkable. Galveston has several areas near schools where sidewalks end abruptly or are not in good conditions, Hockersmith said.
For a person in a wheelchair, using sidewalks to get to school can be impractical or nearly impossible, Hockersmith said. Many of the typical routes have shoddy sidewalks, no sidewalks or inadequate ramps connecting the sidewalk to the road, Hockersmith said.
These problems would make the sidewalks out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that mandates public areas such as sidewalks to be accessible to people who use wheelchairs.
Several corners and crosswalks near Ball High School, 4115 Ave. O, need to be fixed, committee Chairwoman Janet Hoffman said.
“At the very least, there needs to be a way to get students across there, teachers across there, without getting them killed,” Hoffman said.
City officials next month will bring the committee the scope of the work to be done, Hockersmith said. In the meantime, the Public Works Department will start making routes safer by extending the length of several school zones, Hockersmith said.
Many school zone signs are not easily visible on roads, and the city will move the starting and ending positions of those signs by 100 feet or so, nearer to intersections, Hockersmith said. The signs will be moved by the start of the next school year.
“Signage gets lost in all the other sign clutter,” Hockersmith said. “I’m just noticing fewer and fewer people are seeing signs and rights of way.”
Flashing school zone signs could also help with visibility, said John Carrara Jr., senior vice president of the Goodman Corp., a group that frequently contracts with the city on transportation projects.
“It’s another way of calling more attention,” Carrara Jr. said.
Money shouldn’t be an issue in moving the school zone signs, but the city needs to find funding for sidewalk and curb repairs, Hockersmith said.
Federal grants could be one option to fund the project, but city officials are far away from deciding financial details, Hockersmith said.
“We need to do this,” Hockersmith said. “But, it’s a big undertaking.”