Essay Project 2021: Portland’s Safe Routes to School Project
“...when I spotted that red Corvair trailing me. I was almost two blocks from home then, so I started walking a little faster. I had never been jumped, but I had seen Johnny after four Socs got hold of him, and it wasn't pretty. Johnny was scared of his own shadow after that. Johnny was sixteen then” (Hinton 5). This is a quote from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, that displays the fear that runs through Ponyboy’s mind as he walks home from the cinema. This fear isn’t a problem when walking through Portland. The feeling of safety is due to the huge emphasis put on ensuring a safe community by our local government. As a community, we take pride in our river trails and the sidewalks that run through both the residential and downtown areas. Portland often takes advantage of state grants in order to fund these philosophies, like the Safe Routes to School program.
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program is an international movement that was picked up by the states and then eventually the federal government(srts). Its goal is to increase activity among children in order to get them the physical activity needed for a healthy life. This movement also has the side benefit of reducing morning traffic which in turn lowers air pollution. These are major concerns to our state as nearly 35% of all adults in Michigan are obese. Additionally, Michigan is the 11th highest emitter in carbon dioxide from petroleum, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Due to these statistics, it is quite important to Michigan’s legislation that we promote the steps needed to reduce both obesity and air pollution through vehicular transport.
Portland initially looked into the SRTS program after receiving a request from St. Patricks School. They wished to upgrade the light at the N West Street-Grand River Avenue intersection, right outside their school. When John Moxey, Portland’s lead engineer, was approached with this request, he knew that the MDOT’s SRTS program was a perfect fit. The city then saw that the SRTS program offered around $200,000 for each school within the city, meaning the city could get approximately $1,000,000 dollars in grant funding. As Portland prides itself in being a walkable city, these grants would help substantially in the promotion of Portland’s walkways. In addition it would serve “both as a green initiative . . . and public health initiative”. As getting people out of cars and onto the sidewalks accomplishes both of those things.
So far the city has completed major construction on the W. Bridge Street-Grand River Avenue intersection and plans on beginning construction on other areas in March. The work done on the intersection was planned with two goals in mind: the addition of a right turn lane, which would eliminate the need for the whole lane to slow down every time someone turned; in addition, the realignment of the intersection to match Quarterline Street would force cars to slow down while making the turn, increasing safety for everyone involved. John Moxey expressed that he felt this remodel turned out better than anticipated.
With the success of the former project the city was more than glad to do another. Fleis and Vanderbrink, who do the engineering for our city, have already finished the engineering plans and construction bidding has been completed. The planned construction for March was bid out to Kamminga & Roodvoets, Inc. on October 22. They had a lowest bid of $1,132,401.50 which is about $100,000 above the $1,029,686 from MDOT grant funding. This construction is planned to take 15 weeks with an average 40 hour week.
The funding by the Safe Routes to School program for Portland will be key in maintaining and furthering the walkability of our town. After the success of the remodel on W. Bridge Street and the great start on the March project the town, the city will look to continue to leverage grants to help build up our town.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.