A woman walks across Jeffries Avenue from Bret Harte Elementary.

A woman walks across Jeffries Avenue from Bret Harte Elementary. (Times Community News / July 10, 2012)

Glendale and Burbank have been awarded nearly $900,000 to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety around school sites, the latest wave of grant money aimed at addressing local traffic congestion and the dangers it poses to students.

The combined amount was announced by the California Department of Transportation last week as part of $48.5 million in grants to be filtered via the Safe Routes to School Program that will fund 139 projects up and down the state.

The city of Burbank received $438,700 to enhance the bicycle infrastructure around Muir Middle School and Jefferson and Washington elementary schools, and to offer a safety education program.

Assistant transportation planner Cory Wilkerson said the changes will include installing curb extensions at cross walks to narrow the field of vision and neighborhood traffic circles to reduce auto speeds.

“The whole idea is to reduce the number of cars on the street and the speed of the cars that are using the street to make it more hospitable for kids who are walking or riding their bikes to school,” Wilkerson said.

In recent years Burbank has received $4 million in state and federal Safe Routes to School grants, Wilkerson said.

The city of Glendale was awarded $449,200 to improve sidewalks, and install crosswalks, bike racks and pavement markings around Balboa, Verdugo Woodlands, R.D. White and Dunsmore elementary schools.

The grant will also pay for safety education, encouragement and enforcement programs.

“It is very significant,” Glendale City Councilwoman Laura Friedman said of the grant. “What is great about this, besides that it is money for us to use for traffic safety, is that it is dedicated to making the area around our schools safer. That infrastructure is definitely needed.”

Glendale has received several Safe Routes to School grants in recent years. In October, the city was awarded $1 million to improve roads and walkways at Chamlian Armenian School and Valley View, Franklin, Edison and Cerritos elementary schools.

It also received $500,000 to fund educational programs that promote walking or cycling among Glendale Unified students.

Efforts to address issues of safety around school intensified after a student was struck and killed by a motorist in front of Toll Middle School in October 2008. The efforts have been driven in part by the local chapter of Safe Routes to School, which is made up of parent volunteers who have staged several walk and bike to school events.

“The Safe Routes to School group in Glendale has been very successful in reaching out to parents and really communicating why it is important to have routes that are safe for students that aren’t just by car,” Friedman said.

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