Waxhaw Safe Routes project progresses

by Abbie Bennett

Old Providence Road does not feature sidewalks on both sides of the road, and the sidewalks that exist do not connect nearby neighborhoods to Waxhaw Elementary. There is only one crosswalk near the school. Abbie Bennett/UCW photo

For students at Waxhaw and Kensington Elementary Schools, the walk to school will be a little safer thanks to the Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Project.

Waxhaw applied for a grant for the project about two to three years ago and the North Carolina Department of Transportation awarded the town $242,515 to build the sidewalks. They’ll be constructed along Sharon Drive and Old Monroe Highway to Waxhaw Elementary and on Kensington Road from Millbridge Parkway to Kensington Elementary School.

Waxhaw Elementary currently has a sidewalk in front of the school, but it does not connect to nearby neighborhoods and there is only one crosswalk close to the campus.

Construction is set to begin in August, according to Greg Mahar, director of planning and community development for Waxhaw. A meeting was held this week with the project’s contractor.

Mahar said construction must be completed by March 2013.

“There are two phases – the engineering phase and the construction phase,” Mahar said. “We’re entering the construction phase.”

That construction phase for the sidewalks will interrupt some of the town’s normal traffic flow, Mahar said.

“There will be some disruption,” he said. “There will be construction vehicles out and about in the neighborhoods here and there, but there shouldn’t be wholesale days and days on end, just when they’re working through the neighborhoods.”

According to Mahar, there will be some lane closures on Sharon Drive, Old Waxhaw Monroe Road, N.C. 11-11 and Kensington Road.

But it will be all worth it in the end, officials say. Mahar said the town felt it was necessary to apply for the grant to keep students safe on their commutes to school.

“The sidewalks are going to connect neighborhoods surrounding the elementary schools to the schools,” Mahar said. “We felt with more and more children walking to school that they needed to have a safe means of travel to and from school.”

Mahar said there have been no accidents involving children on the roads, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.

“It’s just unsafe for children to be walking to school in that environment and we wanted to change that,” he said. “They’re fairly busy, especially N.C. 11-11 and Kensington Road.”

Mahar said the addition of sidewalks in the area had more appeal to residents of the town other than students and their parents.

“It gives residents an opportunity to walk safely rather than in the road as they would have to now with no sidewalks,” he said. “From an exercise standpoint also, they can get out and walk safely.

Kensington Elementary School Principal Rachel Clark said she’s excited about the addition of the sidewalks.

“We have all these wonderful communities so we’re trying to make it a more community feel,” she said. “Parents can walk their children to school in the morning or walk in groups.”

According to Clark, the sidewalks have more benefits than just increased safety.

“To have a means of providing safe transportation, means improved health for my students, and more family time as they are walking,” she said. “Sidewalks will cut down on the car rider line in the morning, which is always a tension thing for parents as they rush to drop their kids off before they go to work.”

Clark said there is real desire for the sidewalks.

“I know there’s interest because of participation in the National Walk to School Program, but we’ve had to make our own routes to participate because of the lack of sidewalks,” she said. “I’ve had people say they wish we had sidewalks. I have seen families from different areas try to take walks to get to school or the playground and there’s no safe way to do it right now.”

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