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Grant will fund school pedestrian corridor

Bike-ped advocates land $150,000 in state money to link two campuses.

State money is rolling in for a bicycle/pedestrian corridor that will link two public school campuses.

The Bainbridge Island School District this week was awarded $150,000 in state funding to improve a pedestrian and bicycle route across the high school grounds to New Brooklyn Road and nearby Woodward and Sakai schools.

The grant, from a million-dollar pot administered as the “Safe Routes to School” program, was announced Friday by the Washington State Department of Transportation. It was one of 11 projects funded out of nearly 60 applicants, and received the highest dollar amount.

“It’s really like the missing link from the north end of the island to the south end,” said Dana Berg of the Squeaky Wheels bicycle advocacy group, which has lobbied for the non-motorized connection for several years.

“It hooks together all those schools that are in the central core,” Berg said. “We figure it will increase the people who walk and bike to school by 30-50 percent over two years. It satisfies so many parents’ concerns about keeping their kids out of traffic.”

The grant application was submitted in May by an ad hoc group that included Berg and her husband Bart, Rep. Phil Rockefeller, and school and city officials.

Students have long trekked along a service road at the north end of high school grounds – officially used only for access to the city water reservoirs – as a shortcut to and from the New Brooklyn Road area and the middle school campus.

But the wooded, out-of-the-way route tended to raise safety concerns, and is said to have been an area for teen smoking and other illicit activities.

The grant will pay for overhead lighting and tree trimming to improve visibility and safety.

New asphalt and crushed gravel paths will link the route with the high school track area and the swimming pool complex to the east.

While the improvements have been a pet project of Squeaky Wheels for some time, they always failed to find school district funding. Undaunted, the group promoted the route on its annual Ride Around Winslow event in May.

Joining Squeaky Wheels on that ride was Rockefeller, whose participation proved fortuitous.

Two days after the event, the Bainbridge Island legislator received word that a fast-track grant process was beginning for school zone safety funding, and he called the Bergs and urged them to apply.

“I suggested that the early bird might get the worm,” Rockefeller said. “They did, and did a great job of it.”

The project will complement other non-motorized transportation improvements in the area; a sidewalk and bike lane project is already planned for New Brooklyn and Madison Avenue this summer. (See related story, page A3.)

The school board reached consensus favoring the bicycle-pedestrian corridor before the grant application was submitted; work could begin this year.

“Kids already use (the path),” Weiland said. “I think we should improve it.”

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