Residents of a Kearns neighborhood got a lift Tuesday toward solving a serious safety problem for children crossing 56th West to the Silver Hills Elementary School in West Valley City.
The Granite Board of Education agreed to contribute approximately $25,000 toward construction of a walkway across the busy street at about 51st South.The estimated cost of the walkway is $200,000. The Utah Department of Transportation agreed to pay half if residents could raise the remainder, Michelle Gammell told the board. She is a PTA officer at the school and is helping to lead the effort to resolve the safety issue.
The matter came into focus recently when a child was seriously injured by a car while crossing the street after a late-afternoon school activity. Parents and school administrators have made a safer crossing first priority for the neighborhood, she said.
The school is in a unique situation, PTA spokeswomen said. Although it serves children east of 56th South, it was built primarily in anticipation of growth on the west side. That growth did not occur because of a moratorium on construction in the area near Hercules. Approximately 650 children cross the busy arterial street each day to attend Silver Hills.
Shifting students to Western Hills Elementary, which is on the same side of 56th South, would further overcrowd that school and leave Silver Hills without a sufficient student body.
West Valley City has agreed to contribute $20,000 toward the bridge project, and Salt Lake County has unofficially agreed to a $21,000 contribution, said Tosh Kano, county traffic engineer. Other contributions are being sought from individuals and area businesses, including Hercules, Gammell said.
Kano said recent traffic studies showed that hundreds of cars pass through the school area during times children are en route to and from school. Despite safety measures and crossing guards at these times, a high percentage of the vehicles were exceeding the school zone limit of 20 mph, and many were traveling 50 or 60 mph. The street is expected to become a major arterial feeding Utah and Davis counties and is projected to become a seven-lane corridor in the future.
School board members noted that they had recently received bids for school improvements that were under the amounts budgeted and could find money for the bridge project. The safety issue at Silver Hills is obvious, they said, voting unanimously to contribute a fourth of the non-state money for the walkway.
Gammell said the Kearns residents were prepared to boycott if necessary to get their message to officials, but with most of the money promised, it appeared no such measures will be necessary.
Preliminary work is being done to prepare more concrete figures on the cost of an overpass. The project could be finished by Nov. 1 if the money can be raised and construction goes smoothly, Gammell said.