Not too long down the road now, bicycling and walking around Summit Cove near Keystone will get a major boost.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, known better as just CDOT, announced its annual Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant awards last week, and Summit County is a beneficiary in a big way. CDOT ranked the Summit Cove Elementary bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements as its top overall proposal in the state for the 2016 funding cycle, providing $350,000 to complete the project.
“This is the kind of project that this grant is really made for, to make it easier for kids to decide to take a bike or walk to school” said Thad Noll, assistant county manager. “It has been really difficult for some of the Western, more rural school districts to get these grants in the past, so this was a big deal.”
The SRTS program was created specifically to help communities throughout Colorado make school passages safer and more accessible by funding education and safe infrastructure, as well as encourage healthy options for arriving to school. The county first began discussing the idea of improving those area byways about four years ago but partnered closely with the Summit School District to attract CDOT to the pedestrian and bicycle land connections portion of its larger Summit Cove Loop Project late last year.
County senior planner Kate Berg and Crystal Miller, Summit Cove Elementary’s longtime principal, then got together during the school’s Christmas break and, using successful SRTS petitions from the past as their framework, hammered out all of the details for their grant application. Four and half months later, their pleas were heard.
“We want to see more kids out on bikes and walking to school, and maybe parents being more comfortable walking with their kids to school. I just think it’s a real positive thing for the school and county, and it makes these choices easy to make.”Thad Nollassistant county manager
“CDOT saw our site and condition,” said Miller, “and they ranked this one No. 1. We were pretty excited about that, to see that and have it realized so quickly. We’re thrilled to have received it, and now it’s time to dig up some concrete.”
Total estimated cost of the improvement plan is roughly $468,000 and the grant will cover approximately 75 percent of that, with construction scheduled to begin in summer 2017. The county will foot the remainder of the bill, on top of the costs associated with the Summit Cove enhancements outside of the school zone.
In particular, the school upgrades will include a raised and colored 4-foot wide pedestrian-bicycle lane on Cove Boulevard and construction of parallel-parking spots for student drop-off and pick-up, as well as better sidewalk accessibility to the present sites of ADA ramps and elevators into the elementary. Some of the new funding will also go toward some in-school programming to encourage students and parents to walk and bike to school.
“On nice days, our bike racks here are pretty full,” said Miller, “but with maybe four-to-five kids with no helmet, so we talk to them. But we have a curriculum on bike safety and helmet safety, as well as healthy lifestyles units of inquiry. We’ll integrate this great bike path into that and, hopefully, be able to make an impact.”
County approximations list Summit Cove, one of the more residential, family-dense neighborhoods — as opposed to second homes — as possessing 1,330 dwellings with a total of 1,600 residents. About 75 percent of the elementary school’s students live within a single mile, but, because of existing road conditions, biking or walking to school can be both difficult and dangerous, especially during the winter months. In turn, Summit Cove is the only elementary in the district that offers bussing to students less than a half-mile from the school.
“Given the winter environment and the way the road is structured as a loop that goes around — think about how a loop is plowed and with no sidewalk — it’s not really safe for students to walk on the road,” explained Miller. “Parents feel pressed to drive students because there’s not a way to access the school when there’s snow. With a sidewalk, I just think if we can keep it clear — and it’s my expectation that we can — kids can walk here in the morning, and there will be less traffic and less pollution around the school, all those sorts of things.”
She also noted the increased warm-weather recreation for all from the completion of this project — be it for parents teaching their young children how to ride a bike, to those multi-tasking by pushing a stroller in addition to walking the dog.
“The summer recreational opportunities are just phenomenal,” she said.
The multi-year Summit Cove Loop Project is currently in its second of several stages of phased construction. The overarching enterprise entails drainage refurbishments and resurfacing along five side roads, in addition to building a 2.4-mile bicycle-pedestrian loop of roadway through the neighborhood.
The second phase of the construction began during the second week of May and is expected to last through mid-October. This year’s construction includes a widening of Soda Creek causeway on Cove Boulevard approaching the intersection with Royal Coachman to create more room for bikes and foot traffic. The expansion of the causeway this year will help prepare the area for the bicycle-pedestrian lanes on Cove Boulevard the following summer.
“The causeway is really one of the most dangerous spots for pedestrians and bikes,” said Noll. “It’s the narrowest piece of roadway, and there’s no place to bail out if something’s happening. We really want to get that bridge feeling safer and add some bike lanes there.”
From there, it’s on to the school-focused project. The hope is that all said and done, the SRTS project will help provide more chances for nearby children to get themselves to school.
“This is ideal,” said Noll. “We want to see more kids out on bikes and walking to school, and maybe parents being more comfortable walking with their kids to school. I just think it’s a real positive thing for the school and county, and it makes these choices easy to make.”