Commack School District and Smithtown officials are working together to apply for a federal grant that could provide the money necessary to improve safety of the roads leading to local schools.
The Town of Smithtown will be applying to New York State Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program, which offers $23.9 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements and public education campaigns that encourage primary and middle school children to safely walk and bike to school, according a statement on the DOT's website.
A community meeting will held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at John Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School to discuss the grants. Representatives from Smithtown Traffic Safety Department and school administrators will be on hand to explain how the funds, if obtained, will be used and answer any questions.
"We are kind rushed because the grant has to be in by Oct. 5," said Debbie Virga.
Virga, a school community relations liaison for Commack School District, said Smithtown officials reached out to her about applying for grants to improve infrastructure along New Highway, near Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School and Wood Park School, in addition to Kings Park Road, near Indian Hollow School.
The town's proposal is to straighten out New Highway and install rapidly flashing beacons in front of the schools,to slow drivers down. Other improvement measures will include refinishing the crosswalks to improve safety for walkers, according to Virga.
"You will never get a light near Sawmill Intermediate School," Virga warned Commack Community Association members at their Sept. 27 meeting.
On Kings Park Road, Smithtown officials are proposal to also install a rapidly flashing beacon lights in front of Indian Hollow to warn drivers to slow down.
In addition to these roadway improvements, the town and Commack School officials will seek about $150,000 for education over the course of five years. This money will be put into programs to educate and encourage students to safely walk and bike to school.
In order to qualify for the grant, Virga has distributed surveys at the schools that may be impacted, asking residents for their opinions and feedback on roadway safety.
Under the Safe Routes to School Program, the DOT mandates projects must be:
- within 2 miles of a primary or middle school,
- located on a municipal right-of-way,
- benefit public interest,
- address at least one of five categories: engineering (infrastructure), education, enforcement, encouragement or evaluation of program impact (non-infrastructure) efforts.
DOT has promised that 70 to 90 percent of the $23.9 million available will go towards infrastructure improvements within a two-mile radius of a primary or elementary school. This can include installation of traffic signals, crosswalks, construction or traffic mitigation measures.
The winning projects will be announced by year end, according to the DOT's website.