By Camelia Juarez
An application aimed at obtaining grant funding for a proposed sidewalk that could connect Dripping Springs High to Dripping Springs Middle School was given the green light by city leaders earlier this month.
Worries are growing among community members who oppose the city’s plan to apply for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant, citing a sidewalk on busy roadways is a dangerous proposition.
The Dripping Springs City Council Aug. 13 approved a resolution in support of applying for SRTS funding for the project, which would call for a 10-foot sidewalk from Roger Hanks Parkway at Dripping Springs High to the U.S. 290 intersection.
The proposal also calls for a 5-foot sidewalk along old U.S. Highway 290 to Meadow Oaks Drive, with a signaled pedestrian crossing U.S. 290 at Meadow Oaks Drive connection to more sidewalk on the east side of U.S. 290 near Dripping Springs Middle School.
The SRTS grant, provided by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), is a 100% match grant, meaning the city will pay up front then TXDOT will reimburse the city. Lutz said the project has an estimated price tag of $1.7 million.
Dripping Springs City Planner Jason Lutz said DSISD students are currently walking along U.S. 290 to get to school.
“There are no sidewalks in that area, minimal safety infrastructure. We know kids are already walking that path to get to school. We want to help students be safer while using their current route,” Lutz said.
The sidewalk proposal includes a path from the middle school to the high school, which could be used by DSISD as an emergency evacuation route. If there is an emergency in either school, students would be directed along this path to a nearby Tractor Supply Company, said Lutz.
“If we can install the sidewalks, we will be able to help that path. We want to make it as safe as possible for students to get to the safe harbor,” Lutz said.
While student safety is the main goal, Lutz said the sidewalks could also benefit senior citizens.
“There are some areas along Old 290 that elderly folk walk back and forth to the post office. They walk in the street without sidewalks, so that was an additional reason to improve the safety of routes people are already utilizing,” Lutz said.
However, one DSISD parent said they disagreed with the city’s assessment, saying they’ve seen only three students who regularly walk along U.S. 290 to get to class.
The parent, who wished to remain anonymous, drives her two children to the middle and high school. She said she disagrees with the sidewalk proposal because the highway is dangerous.
“Students between the age 11 to 15 are distracted by their phones. The highway is fraught with death and disaster, especially because 18-wheelers turn off their air brakes near the school,” the parent said.
Lutz said TxDOT will announce its selections for the SRTS grant in January. If Dripping Springs’ project is approved for grant funding, city leadership will hold a public hearing to decide if the community wishes to move forward with the project.