A historic Coos Bay neighborhood is getting a facelift, thanks to a $2 million Safe Routes to School grant, one of the largest in southwest Oregon. The new improvements dovetail with a new Eastside School, which broke ground earlier this spring.
“I’m really excited that with the sidewalks and bike lanes it will be another option for students who live in the area but don’t feel safe with the amount of traffic that comes through here,” said Millicoma Intermediate School Principal Michelle Barton.
Nearly half of Millicoma’s 400 4th-through-7th grade students come from low income families, in an area that struggles economically. In April, Georgia Pacific announced it is closing a nearby lumber mill, putting more than 100 people out of work.
New school, new sidewalks
Once the new Eastside Elementary School opens next door to Millicoma in fall of 2020, nearly a thousand students will attend the two schools.
The Safe Routes to School, or SRTS, grant will build sidewalks from the Isthmus Slough Bridge on both sides of Coos River Highway, then west on D Street toward the new and refurbished schools.
“I think sidewalks are needed for this area. I personally would not let my kids just walk on the side of the road unless there are sidewalks.”
parent Lonnie Corona
But walk they do. Eastside has parks, a popular boat launch and a neighborhood market along Coos River Highway, which is a busy roadway carrying log trucks between the woods and mills.
Millicoma students who live in the neighborhood shared examples of near misses while they walked to school and in the neighborhood. All agree more sidewalks will make a difference.
“With sidewalks it would be a lot easier. It’s a school zone and even after school hours there’s a lot of kids around and it would be a lot safer,” said student Sierra Adams.
The city of Coos Bay applied for the grant through SRTS, which is part of the landmark state transportation funding package passed in 2017. Sidewalks and bike lanes have been part of the city’s Transportation System Plan for more than 15 years but the city lacked funding. Coos Bay’s application, along with a winning 2017 school bond, combined to make for a winning SRTS package.
“It’s going to be a great partnership,” said Coos Bay School Superintendent Bryan Trendell. “It’s going to be great for the eastside community and our schools. So it’s a win-win.”