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‘They actually pay attention now’

Safe Routes to School program aims to get students out of cars and use other means of transportation

Posted: September 9, 2009 10:23 p.m.
Updated: September 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.

(Left to right) Canyon Springs Community School students Marquis Jones, Teyonne Smith and Talley Robinson-Smith use a newly painted crosswalk as they walk home from school on Aug. 26. The students feel safer with the new improvements thanks to the Safe Routes to School program.

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Graciela Gonzalez crosses Vicci Street and Plumwood Avenue daily to pick up her second-grader from Canyon Springs Community School in Canyon Country.

"Before, you couldn't see the lines on the crosswalk," she said through a Spanish translator. "Now you can see them. This is better."

The improved crosswalk is just one improvement funded by the federal and state governments through the Safe Routes to School program, which channels state and federal funds to local governments for projects that improve safety for kids walking to school.

Several construction projects over the summer at Canyon Springs and two other local elementary schools, including more visible signs and changes to streets and traffic signals.

"The goal is to get more kids out of their parents' cars and get them walking and biking to school," said Ian Pari, senior traffic engineer for the city of Santa Clarita.

The Canyon Springs project, one of a series of schools undergoing construction, comes at a crucial time for the school.

Since budget cuts forced Sulphur Springs School District to reduce school bus services, the number of students transferring to Canyon Springs has increased, said Principal Lynn David.

Enrollment has increased by about 30 students to 630, David said.

The increase in number of students and reduction in bus services means more kids are walking to school, often using the city transit service.

"Some of (the families) have felt that they can take the public bus and walk from Soledad (Canyon Road) easily and more safely," she said.

Construction crews at Canyon Springs repainted and repaved crosswalks and installed more visible street signs.

"I think that there is a better sense of safety here," David said. "It's much more obvious where crosswalks are."

The city has also narrowed the streets around Canyon Springs and other schools, widening the curbs and sidewalks.

"The narrowing effect causes motorists to slow down," Pari said.

As part of the non-motorized plan the city adopted last year, city officials looked at the biking and walking accessibility of all Santa Clarita Valley elementary schools, he said.

Construction ranges at each school, but generally involves adding and improving school signs, repainting and repaving crosswalks and installing speed feedback signs that show motorists how fast they are driving, he said.

Canyon Springs families have already taken notice of the improvements.

DeAnne Bradford, parent of two Canyon Springs students, called the intersections "dangerous" before the summertime construction.
"It's definitely a big improvement," she said while walking to pick up her kids. "We've needed it for a long time."

Talley Robinson-Smith, a 10-year-old at the school, said the difference has been clear: "They actually pay attention now."

Signal Staff Photographer Francisca Rivas contributed to this report.

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