After two years of development, Soldotna’s Safe Routes to School Walk Zone Inventory and Recommendations plan is finalized and ready for implementation.
Developing Soldotna’s Safe Routes plan began in 2012 after the city received a $65,600 federal grant through the Alaska State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The program aims to develop a better understanding of the local attitudes about how children are getting to school, specifically elementary and middle school students, said Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen.
Recommendations focused on the half-mile radius around a school, called the “Walk Zone,” according to the report.
“In my experience it went exceedingly well,” said Queen. “Public involvement, and our relationship with the consultant resulted in this planning document which we’re already beginning to implement.”
The city, along with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, contracted PDC Inc. Engineers to develop the final report.
Each recommendation was identified as a “Priority 1,” “Priority 2” or “Priority 3” level project.
Projects identified as “Priority 1” require execution within the next three years, according to the report.
School sites considered for improvement include Cook Inlet Academy, Soldotna Elementary and Soldotna Montessori, Redoubt Elementary, Kalifornsky Beach Elementary, and Skyview Middle School.
“Priority 1” projects include a pedestrian crossing on Binkley Street, a mid-block crossing on Redoubt Avenue, and islands at the intersection of the Kenai Spur Highway and Marydale Avenue.
John Czarnezki, City Planner, said it was important to the Planning and Zoning Commission to identify recommendations by which jurisdiction would be responsible for their development.
“It will be necessary for cooperation among these grounds to fund, develop and construct the recommended improvements,” according to the report.
Many of the potential projects listed in the report will require further engineering analysis before design and implementation, according to the Safe Routes report.
Recommendations in the report complement other planning and development efforts in Soldotna such as Envision Soldotna 2030 and the Soldotna Recreation and Trails Master Plan, according to the report.
Building and expanding sidewalks were found to be the most effective way to promote walking to school, according to the report. Sidewalks reinforce a predictable path to school, and separate pedestrians from vehicles.
Sidewalks built under the Safe Routes plan must meet all Americans with Disabilities Act. Bikeways and bike facilities, pick-up and drop-off zones, adjacent roadway conditions, and school property features are other areas of focus.
Overall the project went well and stayed on budget, Czarnezki said.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.