Central Avenue will be the focus of a state grant to improve the safety of students walking to and from school.
The city of Ceres snagged the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant to make a series of improvements between Whitmore Avenue and Hatch Road since the road is heavily used by students attending Caswell Elementary, Ceres High School, Modesto Adventist Academy and Summit Charter Academy, all located on Central Avenue. The improvements are also expected to help students who use Central Avenue to walk to and from Mae Hensley Junior High School and Caswell Elementary.
The Ceres City Council last week awarded a $361,397 contract to Viking General Contractors. The Atwater firm was lowest of eight contractors to submit bids.
According to Assistant City Engineer Leisser Mazariegos the improvements will include curb ramps that accommodate wheelchair and disabled students, storm drainage improvements where puddling has been a problem for pedestrians, and crosswalk and pavement improvements. She said the intent of the grant is to make the students' walk a safer and more pleasant experience.
Intersections will be given "piano key" striping which has an effect of cautioning and slowing down drivers. Crosswalks will also be installed with pavement embedded flashing lights that can be triggered by students wanting to cross. New lighted crosswalk will be installed at Academy Way and Central Avenue and at Glenda Way and Central Avenue.
The intersection of Sequoia Street and Central Avenue will see some significant upgrades with the removal of existing pavement and the installation of stamped colored concrete. Mazariegos said it too will have enhance the walking experience for kids and impress on drivers that the area is populated with pedestrians.
Work will start next month and timed to minimize impacts to traffic as much as possible, she noted.
The city has also applied for and received a federal Safe Route to School grant to make similar improvements along the Moffet, Garrison, Fowler and Rose corridor around Smyrna Park. The $484,000 project is being designed with plans to start construction in late summer or early fall.
Improvements will affect Moffet Road from Hatch Road to Whitmore Avenue; and affect Garrison and Fowler between Moffet and Mitchell roads. Mae Hensley and Carroll Fowler campuses are located on the corridor.
Community concerns about student safety were heightened in the aftermath of the Feb. 9, 2011 fatal crash at Fowler Road and Darwin Avenue. The accident took the life of Mae Hensley student Danielle Tarancon-Leon, 13. The accident, however, was not due to the students but a driver who is suspected of blacking out before the wheel due to substance abuse.