State to get $3.67 million for safer school routes

The Baltimore Sun

.. In seven years, seven children have been injured while walking to class at William Paca Elementary-Middle School in East Baltimore. One died of his injuries.

But now the daily commute will be safer for children at William Paca and six city school campuses, as well as other schools statewide.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Mayor Sheila Dixon and other state officials met at William Paca yesterday afternoon to announce $3.67 million in federal grants for the Maryland Safe Routes to School program.

A portion of the $720,000 grant for Baltimore schools went toward installation of pedestrian countdown signals at newly painted crosswalks with repaired sidewalks at William Paca. Fluorescent-green "school zone" signs also remind drivers hurtling down Orleans Street to slow down, and a temporary speed gauge tells them how fast they're really going.

William Paca is unusual because more than 90 percent of its 745 students live within a mile of its McElderry Park campus and walk to school. Nationally, 85 percent of children are driven or ride buses to class, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contributing to road congestion and aggressive driving by those impatient by slowed traffic.

During the last 10 years, 10 Baltimore children ages 5 to 13 have been killed, and 845 were injured in accidents during school arrival and dismissal times, according to State Highway Administration statistics. Most of the crashes involved pedestrians.

Statewide, nonprofit groups or communities within 15 counties received money for 17 road and other improvement projects through the program. SHA plans to spend an additional $3.46 million on improvements this fall and early next year.

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