CRESTVIEW — If the Okaloosa School District applies for funding for a recently announced transportation initiative, Antioch Elementary School students won't scramble through scrub, weeds and roadside debris to reach the Antioch Road crossing guard.
Florida-Alabama and Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization members met March 21 in Crestview to learn about the state Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP, a component of the federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, initiative.
County and local officials, including Okaloosa School District Facilities Director Bill Smith, also attended the presentation by Mary Robinson of the Bay County TPO and Tori Wilson, the Florida Department of Transportation’s TAP administrator.
The two-year, $52 billion MAP-21 consolidates Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails and Safe Routes to School programs under the Transportation Alternatives Program.
Any projects proposed for funding under TAP must be submitted to the local TPO for approval before application is made to the transportation department.
While road widening — including constructing the much-hoped-for P.J. Adams Parkway and Antioch Road corridor — is not eligible for funding, sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, lighting and safety infrastructure, and "traffic calming techniques" are allowed, according to materials distributed by Wilson at the workshop.
Safe route to Antioch
The Safe Routes to School program covers public and private schools’ kindergarten through high school students. Though the local school board must provide infrastructure on school property, TAP money could fund projects within a two-mile radius of a school that are designed for "helping children to safely walk to and from school," Wilson said.
Of three Okaloosa County projects vying for TAP funding, only Antioch Road is in the county’s north end. That means Antioch Elementary is the only school currently eligible to apply for Safe Route to School funds, though any other school could seek funding for projects under the program.
If the school pursues a sidewalk project, it would be up to the county — which would maintain the sidewalks — to collaborate with the school district and have them constructed.
"It's not the responsibility of the school board to build sidewalks," Smith said. "It's the responsibility of the municipality. If you're going to do it, you have to make sure you get 100 percent of the money back and you're clear," or auditors will "rip you" for using school funds off of school property.
Robinson said she would like to see local governments applying for more TAP funds.
"Quite honestly, Okaloosa-Walton probably needs to get some enhancement and Safe Route to School projects moving along," she said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.