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Safe Routes To School: Walk Route Plan To School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are based on four Es: education, enforcement, encouragement, and engineering. Last week, I discussed the encouragement campaign called Walking and Wheeling to Whitson that will be happening during the month of May. This week, I will explain the creation of the school walk route plan as part of the education and engineering components of our efforts.

School districts are required by Washington State regulations to have suggested walk route plans for every elementary school where children walk to school. A school walk route or bike route plan is usually a map or written document to inform parents and school children about walking routes within a mile of the school and a plan to make safety improvements as needed. It recommends a walking route to school based on considerations of traffic patterns and existing traffic controls such as crosswalks, traffic lights, or school safety patrol posts.

The chosen route should seek to limit the number of school zone crossings in a way that encourages students to cross streets in groups. In addition, it should seek those routes that provide the greatest physical separation between walking children and traffic, expose children to the lowest speeds and volumes of moving vehicles, and have the fewest number of road or rail crossings (Washington Administrative Code, or WAC, 392-151-025).

Last October, the SRTS working group completed a walking audit in order to inventory existing pedestrian facilities and potential hazards. We gave each block a rating for traffic volume and speed, and whether or not a sidewalk or path was present. We also evaluated each street crossing for sight lines (how well pedestrians and oncoming traffic can see each other) and crosswalks. The audit included streets that are east of Main, north of Jewett, and south of Spring. We compiled the collected data onto a base map. At subsequent meetings, we analyzed the base map to come up with the school walk route plan (see map).

The SRTS group has recommended that Wauna be the long term plan for the walk route and the current bike route due to significantly lower data for traffic volume and speed, compared to Estes and Main. If there is money for infrastructure improvements, a bike lane with curbs may be installed on Wauna and Fields to create a separation between motorists and pedestrians/bikers. Hood Street is also being considered for future infrastructure improvements, namely a sidewalk, since a walk route follows Hood.

Currently, the walk route for the southern part of town follows Jewett through downtown. Our hope is that local businesses will offer discount incentives for students and families walking by before or after school. This type of partnership would contribute to local efforts at downtown revitalization. In addition, the walk route provides connectivity for the community to the library, the grocery store, the farmers’ market and Rhinegarten Park, making it useful during summer months. Since the walk route follows Main, a broader community walkability plan is to connect the school walk route with Loop Road.

The recent adoption of a Complete Streets ordinance by the City of White Salmon supports this vision for greater pedestrian/bike access in our community. Since this is the first year of existence for the SRTS working group in White Salmon, much work remains to be done.

Contact Becky Williams, Safe Routes to School coordinator, at beckyw@co.klickitat.wa.us or 493-1558 with questions or for clarification about any information in this article.

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