Aurora -- The city is still pursuing funding for new sidewalks and bike paths, and is taking a different route to try to secure funding after a Safe Routes to School grant was turned down last summer.
The Safe Routes to School plans and the city's connectivity plans have been combined, Mayor James Fisher said.
On Oct. 18, that plan was submitted via a letter of intent to the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, requesting $500,000 in federal grant money to support the city's plan.
The initiative is called the "Transportation Alternative Program," said Fisher, who said the program is federally funded and facilitated by AMATS. The grant is a 20-percent match for the city.
"Hopefully, the city's letter of intent will be accepted," Fisher said. "Once that happens, the city will complete a full application."
He said the total timeline for the project is about 3-5 years.
"Due to the complexity, cost and need to prioritize the type of connectivity that best fits the city," Fisher said, "my position has been that the newly elected mayor will have a 4-year term to tackle this important issue."
The topic of new sidewalks was mentioned Oct. 17 at an Aurora candidates' forum at Aurora High School, and Planning-Zoning-Building Director Rich Wehrenberg said several candidates have asked him "about connectivity and the plan we put together some years ago."
Two to three years ago, a committee of citizens studied the connectivity issue, and determined that sidewalks and bike paths linking Town Center with schools, commercial areas and certain neighborhoods would be an asset to the community.
In July, although the city's request for up to $500,000 in federal Safe Routes to School grant money to extend sidewalks around the schools was awarded to other Ohio cities in 2013, Aurora received $30,000 that was not specified for infrastructure purposes.
City Planner Denise Januska said Ohio Department of Transportation officials, who are in charge of determining where the grant money goes, did not provide a reason to Aurora city officials for Aurora not being picked.
Januska said Aurora can apply again for the grant in 2014. If approved, funding would pay for sidewalk and bicycle path improvements, crosswalks and traffic signals, officials said.
"It's a great program for a community," Wehrenberg said. "It would allow students to get to school by walking or bicycling, and they'll be able to get more exercise."
City officials have said grant money is necessary for the city to move forward with the project.
They said the proposed sidewalks would have connected the high school to the middle school, along with adding sidewalks on South Chillicothe and Aurora-Hudson roads. Also, bicycle paths would link the center of town to the public schools.
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