FAIRMONT - State Street was busy with after-school traffic on Thursday afternoon in Fairmont, making tricky passage for young pedestrians on their way home. From 3 to 3:15 p.m., only one student used the new State Street crosswalk built with a Safe Routes to School grant.
Most kids drive themselves, car-pool or get picked up by their parents, especially when it's cold out. That means the new safety measures, completed earlier this school year, won't really be put to the test until the weather warms up in the spring.
Through the federal Safe Routes to School program, the city received a $165,000 grant, which it supplemented with $5,000. Fairmont Area Schools added another $5,000.
"We worked with the school throughout the process," said Troy Nemmers, Fairmont public works director.
Among the improvements the funds made possible are the new crosswalk on State Street, another crosswalk on Johnson Street that was actually completed three years ago, and additional sidewalks.
The new crosswalk on State Street includes a newly marked walkway, a pedestrian median, and a sign with flashing lights that are activated with the push of a button. The student who used the crosswalk on Thursday did not activate the lights but this reporter did, and traffic then halted to allow the boy to walk across the busy street.
Previously, the walkway had 24-hour flashing lights, which were pretty much useless in terms of safety, according to Nemmers.
"They had become a fixture people didn't even notice when they were driving," he said.
The city has no future plans for more Safe Routes to School improvements, though it will continue to take input from residents and assess potential hazards.
For general foot and bike traffic, the city is eyeing ways to improve its trail system using funds from the Statewide Health Improvement Program.
"We're developing an active transportation plan to look at the city's whole trail system," Nemmers said. "... We hope to get public input on that after the first of the year."