cowden walk bridge

The walk bridge along Route 128 in Cowden will soon receive a facelift thanks to a grant awarded by the Illinois' Safe Routes to School. The wooden bridge has deteriorated over the years with rotting wood and rusted out hand rails, deeming it unsafe to use. The village has done patchwork repairs in an effort to keep the bridge open. The bridge is used by students to get from the village to the schools.

The Cowden walk bridge along Route 128 will become a safer passage for residents thanks to a grant from the Safe Routes to School program.

Governor Pat Quinn announced that $13.1 million in grants have been awarded to 171 schools and communities across the state. The 100 percent federally funded program is dedsigned to enable and encourage children to walk and bike to school. Cowden Elementary School will receive $146,500 toward the walk bridge.

“This innovative program reaches out to our youth, instilling in them the healthy habits of physical activity,” Quinn said. “With Illinois ranked fourth in the nation for childhood obesity rates, providing children with a safe and secure means of walking to school is an important tool to improve the health of our children.”

The village of Cowden targeted the walk bridge between the village and the school for the grant.

“This was a cooperative venture between the school and the village,” said Cowden-Herrick Schools Superintendent Gary Cadwell. “We applied for the grant more than a year ago.”

The bridge is primarily used by residents to access the school, library, and funeral home. Cadwell noted that since applying for the grant the bridge has further deteriorated and the village was considering closing it because of its condition. This would also mean having to bus students from the village to the school.

“It is a deplorable situation. We were in desperate need to fix it. With this grant we should be able to replace it with something substanial,” Cadwell said.

Prior to receiving the grant the village had been doing some repairs to the bridge in an attempt to keep it open. But rotting wood and rusted out handrails were taking its toll.

“For the past four to five years we have fixed the bridge up so that kids can get to school,” said Cowden mayor Loren Barnes. “This spring we met with IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) and Senator Frank Watson about the bridge. It is on state property, but the city was liable for it.”

“We were going to undertake the job of repairing it in a cooperative effort with the county, village, and school,” he added.

Barnes noted that IDOT would have the specifications for the bridge work defined according to the State’s standards.

Cadwell has his own hopes for the new bridge, including handicap accessibility and protective covering over the bridge to protect pedestrians from the highway.

“It may not get done for fall, but maybe by spring or after school is out,” Barnes said. “But with the repairs we have already done, we’re trying to get by with the bridge for this fall.”

Safe Routes to School is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The program is designed to :

- Enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school;

- Make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation option, encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and

- Facilitate projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumtion, and air pollution in the vicinity of primary and middle schools.

IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig stated that the agency received almost 200 applications adding up to $27.9 million in requests.

“Safe Routes to School has become a part of many Illinois schools and communities, and we encourage anyone who is interested in implementing Safe Routes to contact the Department for information on how to bring Safe Routes to your community,” Hannig said.

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