Grant Application for Sidewalk at Bear Tavern Elementary Deferred by Hopewell Township, Special Committee Meeting Tonight

    At last week’s Hopewell Township Committee meeting, the Committee declined to vote on a resolution to apply for a state aid grant to construct a sidewalk near Bear Tavern Elementary School along portions of Mercer County Routes 579 and 546. With a looming 2016 Safe Routes to School NJ grant deadline, Hopewell Township will be holding a Special Committee Meeting tonight at 8PM.

    Supported by the Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education by way of resolution, the school board formally expressed its desire that all district students be provided with safe passage to and from school which could be further accomplished by construction of a sidewalk near Bear Tavern Elementary School.

    The installation of a sidewalk from Bear Tavern would serve to “encourage pedestrian traffic, create a sense of community around Bear Tavern Elementary School, and provide Bear Tavern Elementary School walkers who live in the surrounding areas safe passage to and from school,” explained the HVRSD BOE resolution, which passed unanimously in May.

    For many years, parents in the Bear Tavern vicinity have strived to improve road safety conditions and reduce the speed limit along Bear Tavern Road. “In my ten years as a Bear Tavern parent, I became all too acquainted with the roads in front of and surrounding the school. With no sidewalks or pedestrian crossings, students have always had to take their lives into their hands if they chose to walk or bike,” said Kim Robinson, a Hopewell Township resident. “Given the tremendous physical and mental benefits that walking and biking provide, I am very hopeful that this Safe Routes to School grant allows us to provide these opportunities, in a safe way, to the Bear Tavern families.”

    At last week’s Township Committee meeting, the Committee discussed the merits of installing a sidewalk including speed limit and whether the ability to walk to school would eliminate busing. Because of these concerns, the Committee declined to vote on the resolution, despite the upcoming grant deadline of June 27, 2016.
    “I hesitate to vote on anything that requires people to walk their children to school when they thought they were going to be bussed,” said Committee Member Todd Brant.
    In response to Township questions, HVRSD provided the following statement post-meeting regarding busing: “At this time our budget and plans authorize continued busing for all Bear Tavern families,” said Hopewell Regional School District Board superintendent, Dr. Tom Smith. “We have not mapped out all long-term busing possibilities and certainly would not make changes without a thorough safety analysis. Major busing route changes are only done in Fall.”

    With regard to the speed limit, Smith said, “Since Hopewell Township has not formally agreed to consider this project at this point, we have not contacted Mercer County regarding the speed limit. We have not reached out since our last resolution since conditions haven’t changed. We will enthusiastically request another speed limit review by the county, however, we speculate that Mercer County is more likely to consider adjusting the speed limit if Hopewell Township recommends this Safe Routes project and the traffic calming measures that should follow.”

    “We do our best to be transparent with community members and if grant money becomes available and the Township agrees to explore the option, we would most certainly seek input before proceeding,” explained Smith. “On May 16,  HVRSD Board of Education approved a resolution to encourage Hopewell Township to make application to Safe Routes To School to provide sidewalks and access to Bear Tavern school.  If the grant is approved, we are fully prepared to do all necessary planning. It is premature to spend taxpayer money on further planning until we know that there is an opportunity for such investment to be recouped.”

    The Hopewell Township Committee will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, June 20, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building, 201 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Titusville, NJ to discuss Safe Routes to School Grant Application/Continental Lane to Bear Tavern Elementary School.

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