Whether it is adding sidewalks or extending public bus routes, elected leaders are seeking more ways to help students get to school safely.
The issue came up during the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Jan. 12 meeting, where Jensen Hackett, of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), touched on planned sidewalk improvements in the county.
A new funding source that came out of the infrastructure bill that was passed by the federal government is expected to yield about $2 million for sidewalks across Pasco County, Hackett said.
He said the FDOT will be working with the MPO staff to prioritize sidewalk gaps across the county that are on the state road network.
Additionally, the City of Zephyrhills has set aside a million dollars in the current budget year to address sidewalk needs within the city.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said he’d also like to see the county’s public bus system, GoPasco, see if it can expand routes in some areas to give public school students who live within 2 miles of school an opportunity to ride a bus to get closer to school.
The increased attention on sidewalks and public transportation stems from a decision made by Pasco County Schools to end “courtesy” busing for sixth- through 12th-graders living within 2 miles of school.
The decision prompted parents to express concerns that they are worried about their children walking to school when it’s dark, on streets that often lack both sidewalks and streetlights.
Elected officials have responded by trying to identify additional funding sources to address the issue.
In deciding to end the “courtesy” busing, school district officials cited a shortage of both bus drivers to provide the service and money to pay for it.
Published January 25, 2023