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Leaders eye $500K in grant funds

CONYERS -- City officials and community leaders are eying up to $500,000 in federal grant funds with hopes the funding will make it possible for area students to walk to school -- in turn, cutting down on transportation costs.

The federal grant would be funneled through the state's Safe Routes to School program from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The grant was a discussion point during this week's Downtown Development Authority meeting.

Authority member Daniel Digby presented updates on the application process and said officials and volunteers met with a GDOT representative Sept. 1.

The meeting was the first in a series of four meetings necessary to help the city develop a safe travel plan, where they would make sure there are safe places for kids to walk by looking at the number of children affected, where they are walking from and other factors. The plan will then be submitted with the application before the November deadline. The meetings also give GDOT engineers the chance to assess traffic counts and inventory the roads around a school.

Digby said Pine Street Elementary School was the selected school to participate in the program. GDOT selected the downtown Conyers elementary school largely because of last year's Walk to School Day.

Local volunteer Albert Roesel Jr. was present during the meeting and explained Friday that the community is seeking the funds to develop a program that fosters safe walking. By burning calories, it is a healthy alternative for students and it means less congestion on the roadways, Roesel said.

He explained there would be "walking school buses," and the children would not be walking unattended.

"It's supposed to be safe and healthful so there would be parents who would be volunteering," Roesel said. "We're not just going to send the kids out and hope they make it, unattended."

The funding will be used for education efforts and infrastructure, like sidewalks, crossing markings and signs, according to Roesel.

"The ultimate goal is bike-friendly community status which we see as a big winner for Conyers," Digby said Tuesday. "It'll make us more attractive to businesses and residents, you name it."