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Newton gets school pedestrian grant
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Newton County has received a $316,700 federal grant to pay for improvements that will make it safer for schoolchildren to walk and bike along Brown Bridge, Fairview and Kirkland roads.

Newton County received a Safe Routes to School grant that will pay for 14,460 linear feet of sidewalks, 15 pedestrian crossings, three in-road warning light system crosswalks, five 20-bike bicycle racks and six stop-for-pedestrian signs.

The improvements on Brown Bridge Road would benefit West Newton Elementary and Veterans Memorial Middle schools; the Fairview Road work would help students at Fairview Elementary and Clements Middle schools; and the Kirkland Road project would help students at Live Oak Elementary School.

All are high-traffic roads that are dangerous to cross, according to officials. Each of the five schools has a large number of students living within two miles of the school. A total of 2,597 students live within two miles of one of the five schools, with 530 students living within a half-mile of the five schools.

The in-road warning light system for crosswalks will include high intensity, bi-directional in-pavement flashing lights, as well as pre-warning flashing LED signs to prepare motorists to stop for pedestrians.

Kathy Garber, grant coordinator for the Newton County School System, said there is no timetable for construction. The state will handle the final engineering, bid out the project and oversee construction.

Newton County will be responsible for maintenance, Garber said, though no cost estimate was available. She said the grant application was a collaborative proposal from the county, school system, the sheriff's department (traffic counts) and The Center for Planning and Preservation.

"Hopefully, as infrastructures are put in place, more and more students will choose to walk or ride their bikes to school, not only to improve their own health and fitness, but to improve the air quality around their schools through a reduction of car and bus traffic in the area," Garber said in a press release. "If we can help make this happen, it will be a benefit to the entire community."