New, safe routes to school coming to Gervais

ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program is improving safety for young and old alike.

Front entry to Gervais Elementary School.
The crosswalk in front of Gervais Elementary School is in the middle of the block.

In the small French Prairie community of Gervais, a partnership between the city, the school district and ODOT is improving safety for young and old alike. And the improvements for this town of 2,700 will benefit residents and visitors not just during school but every day.

The project, funded through ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program, adds solar-powered flashing beacons at two crosswalks, makes sidewalk improvements and builds a new bike lane. The $182,000 project is in its final design stage with construction to be completed this fall.

“The safety need was clear on Douglas Avenue, which is one of the busiest streets through Gervais,” said Gervais City Manager Susie Marston. While Marston filled out the application, she worked closely with the school district and Marion County, which has jurisdiction over the road.

Marston explained that the crosswalks on Douglas are not controlled by a signal and there have been many close calls with students almost getting hit by vehicles because drivers do not see anyone in the crosswalk. The risk is much higher during rainy and dark weather. In addition, there is considerable congestion right in front of the school because there isn’t a bicycle lane and the uneven sidewalk creates trip hazards.

Uneven sidewalks and lack of a bicycle lane create hazards.

One project, many benefits

The project is located in various spots along Douglas Avenue. One crosswalk is in front of the middle school and the other crosswalk is mid-block in front of the elementary school. The elementary school crosswalk will actually be moved to the intersection of Douglas and 1st Street where motorists would expect to see a crosswalk. The sidewalk and new bike lane are also in front of the elementary school.

“The city and school district have a valued relationship and we collaborate on projects when we can,” Marston said. “We hope that by knowing the students will be much safer – in the crosswalks, on the sidewalks and in the proposed bike lane – the school staff and parents will be reassured that their students can get to school in a safer manner each day.”

This project, and the Safe Routes to School Program, help ODOT carry out its Strategic Action Plan by contributing to the priorities of equity, a modern transportation system and sufficient and reliable funding. In 2017, the Oregon Legislature set aside funds strictly for funding Safe Routes to School, and the improvements are often made in areas where traditionally underserved populations live. In addition, the sidewalks, curb ramps and other improvements help create safer options for individuals and communities. Learn more about the Gervais project in ODOT’s video story.

Gervais welcomes new improvements.