South Lake Tahoe Safe Routes to School Master Plan stresses student safety
While local agencies wait for state grant funding to begin road and bicycle projects, others are focusing on improving pedestrian safety for South Lake Tahoe students.
According to Steve Teshara with the South Shore Transportation Management Association, progress is being made on the Safe Routes to School Master Plan, a road map that will improve safety for students.
“Each school is a center in the community and has its own mobility and safety issues,” Teshara said during a Nov. 17 Lake Tahoe Unified School District board meeting. “We collected data, looked at what could be improved in each area and came up with a list of improvements.”
Work on the plan began in early 2014 and included the Community Mobility Group, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the city of South Lake Tahoe and various parents and teachers. TRPA provided $10,000 to help fund the master plan.
“We were able to blend the excitement of parents, local groups, the schools and experts to come up with a plan that we can all be proud of,” Teshara said.
The master plan makes recommendations about how each site should improve pedestrian safety. The end result is to encourage students to either walk or bike to school, where feasible.
According to the master plan, one area that could benefit from improvements is South Tahoe Middle School. The South Tahoe Middle School Connectivity Plan branched off from the original master plan and was the basis for a $154,000 grant.
“The middle school is in the middle of town, and there are lot of issues that affect everything around it,” Teshara said.
Impacted areas include the Bijou Bike Park and Lake Tahoe Community College on Al Tahoe Boulevard and the Boys and Girls Club on Rufus Allen Boulevard.
Improvements are expected for the area around the middle school in the next two years, according to TRPA associate planner Morgan Beryl.
The city received a $2.145 million grant from California in October for its Al Tahoe Boulevard Safety and Mobility Enhancement Project. The project will add new bicycle trails and upgrade road crossings on Al Tahoe Boulevard from Johnson Boulevard to U.S. Highway 50.
“The city wouldn’t get the funds until 2016 to start the design work, so it may be 2017 at the earliest before construction starts,” Beryl said.
Teshara said the rest of the Safe Routes to School master plan helps local agencies obtain grants for improvements at other school sites in the future.
“Grant requirements are very specific and competitive, so they require a lot of information,” Teshara said.
James Tarwater, superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said it made sense that various agencies were involved in the master plan.
“The people involved see their kids walking in the streets to school, so they know what improvements they want,” he said.
According to Tarwater, he observed data collection teams’ level of detail when they analyzed car traffic through the middle school parking lot.
“With this plan, our kids will be safe, whether at an activity at the Al Tahoe ball fields or Bijou Park,” Tarwater added.
For more information on the Safe Routes to School Master Plan and the South Tahoe Middle School Connectivity Plan, visit http://www.sustainabilitycollaborative.org.