Keeping youngsters safe and a community connected

street with no sidewalks
In some communities, as in Powers, children have to make their way to school on streets because there are no sidewalks.

Powers is ready for multiple benefits from Safe Routes to School grant

Stephanie Patterson knows from personal experience the trials that come with walking from her neighborhood to the local elementary school. It can be a mile or so on roads with no sidewalks, shoulders filled with miniature lakes, and little-to-no separation from traffic on this main street through town. She and her brother did it, often ending up at school with wet clothes, mud-spattered backpacks and shoes soaked through to her feet. She recalls those days now, some 30 years later – and then you hear the excitement in her voice that it’s all about to change.

Patterson is the city recorder for Powers, a small town of just over 1,000 residents on an almost-dead-end state highway in the coast range, about 20 miles south of Myrtle Point, Oregon. She and Mayor Robert Kohn, along with Loree Pryce, contract engineer, and Public Works Lead Liz Pancheau, worked through the process to get recent funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. They – and the community – anxiously await the much-needed project, which will break ground in spring 2022.

“This project will keep kids out of the highway, which is not just safer for them – I hope it will help with their self-esteem, to not be in school with muddy, wet clothes,” Patterson said.

‘Real’ sidewalks, community connections

The $787,000 grant will fund upgrades that run through nearly half the town, mostly along Oregon 542. SRTS grants are helping communities all across the state improve safety and increase active transportation options, an outcome in ODOT’s Strategic Action Plan. In Powers, in addition to sidewalks, there will be drainage and trees about every 40 feet, new signage and a marked highway crossing, where there’s never been one before.

“This is a significant project for us, not only for the kids. It will help everyone because it connects two sides of town,” Patterson said. “And there’s the beautification, too. It really serves a lot of purposes.”

Patterson and team took advantage of the SRTS program’s full offerings, from getting a planning grant so they could be ready for big funding, to then submitting a complete, successful application. They hired Alta Design early on, and other critical partners in their winning effort included staff from the school district.

“The school staff members were really great,” Patterson said, also acknowledging the importance of having qualified engineers assist with the process. In fact, her advice for smaller applicants like Powers is to hire an engineer to make sure you get it right.

“This has been such a positive project,” she said. “Now we’re hoping to piggyback some other projects on this success. It seems to have brought people together – people in town are very excited.”

Count Patterson in as one of those enthused folks. After having walked the nearby roads as a youngster, she’s thrilled her own children will have a ‘real sidewalk’ to get them safely to and from school.

Learn more about Safe Routes to School, where we have two major programs: Construction and Education.