FILE — Ashlyn Eggemann Swearengin (left) and Teresa De Jesus-Alonso paint a sidewalk along Market Street in Soledad on June 10. The colorful paintings will guide youth along the new Safe Routes to School project, which will also launch in the other Salinas Valley cities. (Sean Roney/Staff)

SALINAS VALLEY — California Department of Transportation has awarded a Sustainable Communities Transportation Planning Grant in the amount of $664,127 to the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) and its partners, Monterey County Health Department and Ecology Action, for the Salinas Valley Safe Routes to School Plan.

The money, matched with $126,501 of Measure X funds, will be used to identify safe routes to school and active transportation improvements for 22 K-12 public schools serving nearly 16,000 students in the cities of Gonzales, King City, Soledad and Greenfield.

Salinas Valley Safe Routes to School Plan process will be driven by community input and data collected through walking audits, surveys and other sources. For the first time in TAMC’s history, the plan will include establishment of a Steering Committee to support citizen involvement and pilot a participatory budgeting process.

Through participatory budgeting, residents of the Salinas Valley cities will be empowered to identify and select a set of “quick-build” projects for implementation upon adoption of the plan. The selected projects will be funded with Measure X funds reserved for infrastructure improvements.

“The Plan will identify low-cost, healthy and safe transportation options for students in communities where the potential to walk or bike is great, but due to insufficient infrastructure the majority of students are driven to school,” explained Debbie Hale, TAMC’s executive director.

The need to create safe routes to school is underscored by the fact that children under age 14 account for more than half of all bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the four cities, while they only represent a quarter of the population, according to Hale.

Salinas Valley Safe Routes to School Plan will provide a timeline for implementation, identify high priority projects and match potential funding sources with projects.

The Final Plan will go before the five school district boards and to each of the city councils for adoption in February 2024. Prioritized quick-build projects will be implemented using Measure X funds reserved for infrastructure improvement soon after adoption of the Plan.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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