Upgrades to Streets, Sidewalks, Intended to Make Trips To and From Columbus Schools Safer

August 29th is the first day of classes for students at Columbus city schools. City officials say a seven-year project to make streets and sidewalks safer for school children is almost complete. They marked the event Monday at a school on Mound Street.

Mayor Coleman stood on a new sidewalk outside West Mound Elementary Monday afternoon. He flipped the switch to turn on new school zone flashing lights, then motioned to drivers to reduce their speed.

“Slow down, slow down; all right, I like this,” Coleman said. “This is good. Look at that, he’s slowing down to a crawl I like that even better.”

Since the project began in 2000, warning lights, signs and pavement markings have been upgraded at 102 of the city’s 106 schools. The $2 million cost was paid mostly with bond money. The newest buildings in the system are constructed with separate auto and bus drop-off and pick up areas. But others safety features have to be retrofitted says schools superintendent Gene Harris.

“We have worked together strategically around our new schools and some of our existing schools to make sure that some of these high priority areas where there were not enough lights or the crosswalks weren’t clear enough or where there weren’t flashers, to make sure that our children are safe on the way to school,” Harris said.

Columbus health commissioner Teresa Long says a section of Livingston Ave. has been one of the most dangerous for pedestrians, where an average of 9 children are struck by cars every year. She says upgrades on Livingston were completed a few weeks ago.

“Eight special areas along Livingston have become pedestrian zones with new reflective striping, and signs that warn drivers to watch for people walking and crossing the street,” Long said. “The crosswalks were installed in early August at the corners of Livingston and Grant, Ann St., 18th St., Ohio Ave., Champion Ave., Miller Ave., Kelton Ave., and Fairwood Ave.”

Long says future streets and neighborhoods must be designed so that the safest choices for pedestrians are the easiest choices to make. In the meantime, Mayor Coleman says drivers who continue to speed through school zones run the risk of being ticketed.

“We will not hesitate to issue citations,” Coleman said. “We will have our motorcycle patrols out all over Columbus in areas of greatest concern; where children go to school during those hours.”

Coleman says 6,700 citations issued last year to drivers in school zones.