Budget concerns are not limited to families in southern Ocean County. Government at all levels are trying to cut costs, and in Barnegat this cost cutting is also saving the environment!
In New Jersey, as in other parts of this country, travel to school by walking and bicycling has declined dramatically over the past several decades. The adverse impacts of this trend on air quality, traffic congestion and childhood health are alarming.
In an effort to save money on student transportation costs, Barnegat Township schools and the Township Committee have agreed to participate in the New Jersey Safe Routes to School program.
The goal of Safe Routes Program is to assist New Jersey communities in developing and implementing projects and programs that encourage walking and bicycling to school while enhancing the safety of these trips.
In Barnegat the option of sidewalk construction was chosen. Under state guidelines, walking zones consist of a two-mile radius for elementary students and 2.5-mile radius for middle and high school students.
Construction of sidewalks is expected to be completed by the time Barnegat students return to school on September 7th. The project includes a length of sidewalk along Bengal Boulevard leading to the Joseph T. Donahue Elementary School, on Rose Hill Road and a new pathway will connect the Russell O. Brackman Middle School and Cecil S. Collins Elementary School.
About 350 students in Barnegat will not have the option of busing this year.
Some Barnegat residents have long been advocating sidewalk construction as an alternative to expensive busing. But it wasn't until the New Jersey Department of Education said the Barnegat school transportation budget was too high that school district officials of adopted the Safe Routes to Schools program.
It's estimated that the annual cost savings to Barnegat taxpayers will be $675,000 through staff cuts and not purchasing new buses. The savings can not be measured in only dollars; fewer buses mean less traffic and better air quality and the health benefits to students should be substantial!
Check out the Barnegat Township School District site to find more information on crossing guards.