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A Hummel Report Investigation

The Route to Nowhere

Six years ago 10 Rhode Island communities got the good news they had been awarded a total of $2 million as part of a national program called Safe Routes to Schools. The grants would provide new sidewalks, bike racks, signage and electronic speed warnings at public schools across the state. ┬áBut the projects quickly stalled and never got off the ground. This week, Jim Hummel finds out who dropped the ball and talks with one parent who hasn’t give up on his local project.

SCRIPT

Bike racks outside an elementary school in Barrington, along with a dedicated bike lane to get there.
A special crosswalk bisecting a busy road leading to another elementary school in East Providence.
And a speed warning sign just before a middle school in Cranston.
They are all part of the national Safe Routes to School program, funded largely by the federal government and overseen by the state of Rhode Island. It provided money for signage, sidewalks and in some cases education.
Pimental: ``Basically, the goal was to provide a sidewalk so that the parents and kids could walk safely on the side of the buses exiting the property.’’
Jeff Pimental’s son was a student at Myron Francis Elementary school in East Providence when he helped put together an application for a Safe Routes grant in 2010. At the side entrance to the school, pedestrians, bikers and buses converged a little too closely for comfort before and after school.
Pimental: ``It was where the school buses exited the property. There always seemed to be a bottleneck, and a lot of kids and parents were dodging buses on the way out of the property, especially in the wintertime when the snowbanks became real high.
An initial round of grants had been approved in 2007, with the work completed over the next several years. In 2010, Myron Francis and nine other schools across the state got the good news that they, too, had been approved for a second round of projects totaling nearly $2 million.
Six years later, work still has not begun at any of the schools. And - we found - it’s still a long way off.
Alviti: ``The federal government sent a person down to the school at one point after we won the grant and we toured the property and it seemed like everything was smooth sailing. Little did I know it was going to be 7 plus years and still no sidewalk here.’’
So what happened? The Hummel Report has learned the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is largely responsible for dropping the ball. And it’s one of the first things Peter Alviti got a briefing on when he took over as DOT Director in early 2015.
Alviti: ``And here we are six, seven years later and we’re at 10 percent completion of design when we got here.’’

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