East Hampton Town has been awarded a $554,000 federal grant to fund safety improvements around the Springs School that include installing new sidewalks, speed monitoring devices and pedestrian walkway lights, according to town and school officials this week.
The grant was awarded on Thursday, according to Town Board members Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc. While the town was the main applicant for the funding, the effort was largely led by Springs School Board member Elizabeth Mendelman, who has spearheaded the initiative of making the school community safer and more pedestrian-friendly since June.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Ms. Mendelman, a mother of two girls who attend the Springs School, said of the award.
The big ticket items include an approximately 1,200-foot sidewalk that will run down the western side of Springs-Fireplace Road from Woodbine Drive to the Gardiner Avenue and School Street intersection. The crosswalk there will also get a makeover, as a pedestrian-operated signal light will be installed there.
Also, mobile speed monitoring devices that show a driver how fast he or she is traveling will be installed in the vicinity. Those devices will track and keep a record of average speeds to allow school and East Hampton Town Police officials to diagnose problem spots and assign additional officers to monitor those areas.
A second phase of the project would include a partnership with Suffolk County, Ms. Mendelman said. The municipalities are working on a plan to install a sidewalk that would stretch from Copeces Lane to Woodbine Drive.
The funding for the project comes from the National Safe Routes to School grant program, which was launched by Congress in 2005, according to the program’s website. The program has apportioned $1.15 billion to states as of September 30, 2012, and the funds are expected to benefit more than 13,000 schools, according to the site. The New York State Department of Transportation administers the program in New York, according to Ms. Mendelman.
Nearby municipalities like Southampton Village and the Southampton School District have also taken advantage of the same program.
The grant money is paid out in the form of reimbursements for projects undertaken by the town on behalf of the school district.
The effort to create safer routes in the Springs School community began with the realization that the population in Springs had exploded over the last 10 years. And with it came an increase in traffic congestion, said Ms. Mendelman.
“My observations were we had a number of unsafe conditions for kids,” she said. “Less and less kids are walking to school. We see more and more parents driving their kids to school. And I feel a community should have options.”
Springs School Principal Eric Casale lauded the grant award and called Ms. Mendelman a “visionary.”
“You talk about ‘together we make a difference?’” Mr. Casale said. “It was that coming to life. It was our motto coming to life.”