University Place’s Evergreen Primary School requires parental approval before students can walk or bike to class.
Officials are serious: They will notify parents if they find students skipping to school without that permission.
The policy stems from the lack of sidewalks and bike lanes along 40th Street West, the busy arterial that serves Evergreen and another school, Narrows View Intermediate School.
A nearly $1.1 million project that broke ground Wednesday may help more children stay out of the passenger seat of their parent’s cars each morning and afternoon. It would construct continuous sidewalks and bike lanes along 40th Street from Sunset Drive to 67th Avenue.
“We err on the side of caution when it comes to that,” said Evergreen Principal Lance Goodpaster, referring to students walking and biking. “If sidewalks are implemented and things change, I think we’ll lighten up our restrictions.”
City Engineer Jack Ecklund said there were three collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians in the construction area between 2005 and 2007, although he didn’t know if they involved schoolchildren.
Mayor Debbie Klosowski said the project also will benefit the general public as it will be safer them to walk to the grocery store or new library.
“For several years now, we’ve been trying to encourage people to get out and walk more in the community.”
The project budget includes design and construction of the improvements as well as money for some traffic enforcement and public education materials. The city will partner with the school district to produce future programming on UPTV that discusses the project and safe walking and biking for kids. They also will produce and distribute to students a walking and biking map for University Place.
Both grants were awarded in June 2009 and ranked in the top 20 of more than 100 grant applications reviewed by an advisory board.
The project is funded by a $697,000 state Safe Routes to Schools grant, up to a $135,000 contribution from the city’s stormwater management fund and $243,000 from Tacoma Public Utilities, which is replacing an aging water line in conjunction with the construction project.
Other aims of the state grant program is to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
There will be traffic delays associated with the project.
A similar project is underway to add sidewalks and bike lanes on Grandview Drive between 19th and 27th streets, near University Place Primary School. The project budget includes the $782,000 state grant and up to $140,000 in city stormwater management funds.
Both projects are scheduled to wrap up in late June or early July.
Goodpaster said it remains to be seen how often the new sidewalks are used.
“I’m sure we’ll see an increase in walkers,” he said. “It’s hard to gauge the number. I don’t anticipate it’s going to be a huge number.”