UPDATE on 7.25.2013: As of today, TXDOT approved priority funding for the Decker sidewalk project, saying the Decker Middle School students that led this charge are “an inspiration.” TXDOT will provide $1.5M in funding to build the sidewalk. Local advocates will work to fundraise an additional $600K to support the project. Special thanks to Mark Marek for his help today!
Almost a year ago, UWATX started a Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) class at Decker Middle School – bringing together 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to learn about their community, assess needs and create and manage projects to make real changes at their school. One of the most pressing needs they identified was a sidewalk to make getting to school safer, and over the past year, the students worked hard to make that a reality.
The road in front of Decker Middle School is a four-lane highway and the speed limit only drops to 50 mph in the school zone. In the past year, one student was killed crossing the road to get to school. Another saw a person be hit by a car. To date, there has been a third death.
In speaking with fellow students, teachers, administrators, business leaders and local advocates, safety was a top concern and the lack of a safe way to cross the street hit the top of the list. The VPL class at Decker led a letter writing campaign to let Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) officials know about the need and advocate for priority funding to put in a sidewalk.
The project is now just one spot shy of getting the funds needed to put in a sidewalk. Our staff will be representing the Decker students at public meetings this week and next week to help push us over the top.
What you can do about it:
- Write a letter to the Executive Director of Texas Department of Transportation:
Executive Director, Texas Department of Transportation
Dewitt C. Greer State Highway Building
125 E. 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701-2483
Include a subject line for your letter: TEP 2012 Project Application – Decker Lane (FM 3177) Sidewalk Project Support
- Attend a meeting to show your support.
- Write an email or note to the students thanking them for their advocacy – contact us to get connected, please select “volunteering” so your email will be routed to our volunteer center.
Not convinced of this need? You should read the letters from the students [Warning: they’re pretty moving].
UWATX works with Decker Middle School as part of our Target Graduation program, working to help students graduate by bringing services like mentoring, tutoring, behavioral health and case management on middle school campuses where students and parents can access them.
Special thanks to Charlie Watts at the City of Austin and Tom Wald of Bike Austin for providing guidance and support through this process, the Young Leaders Society members and UWATX staff for writing letters and to the Decker Middle School students for getting inspired and making a difference!