Berne takes initial steps to Safe Routes to Schools

    Berne City Council on Monday evening authorized the execution of a pair of contracts with state highway officials as the first step in implementing the city's Safe Routes To School program.
    Berne last fall was named as a recipient of more than $300,000 in transportation department grant funding to implement the national program, which provides planning grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation for programs designed to encourage students to take part in a healthier lifestyle by walking and biking to school.
    Berne was awarded up to $71,500 in non-infrastructure grant funding and up to $250,000 in additional funding from the Indiana Department of Transportation for infrastructure projects. Mayor Bill McKean and two city employees charged with implementing the grant — workforce manager Kurt Dailey and city planning director Shannon Smitley — met with INDOT officials recently in Fort Wayne to review contracts for the project.
    Smitley will serve as the grant agent. He told members of Berne City Council on Monday that a Safe Schools Committee will interview potential design engineers to oversee the project as the next step in the process.
    Infrastructure projects that qualify under the Safe Routes To School program include the installation of sidewalks, crosswalks, speed bumps, pavement markings, increased signage and other "traffic-calming" devices near schools.
    Non-infrastructure projects encouraged by the program include the implementation of a "walking school bus" route, whereby groups of students are led by a supervising parent along a walking route to school. Other qualifying programs include training and equipment for crossing guards, and incentive programs which encourage students to walk or bike to school as a health benefit.
    No timetable was offered on when such projects might be implemented.