Residents of the Beachwood-Franklin area and local agencies celebrated a victory Wednesday that will allow for road improvements on Lobo Avenue near Franklin Road.
A $973,000 grant from the state’s Department of Transportation awarded to the Merced County Department of Public Works will be used for sidewalks, curbs and gutters on a portion of Lobo Avenue, a road that connects Franklin Elementary and Joe Stefani Elementary.
Merced County also secured another $1.8 million grant for upgrades on Walnut Avenue in Winton, between Santa Fe Avenue and California Avenue.
Dana Hertfelder, Merced County’s Public Works director, said the department applied for four grants and received two. The two areas that were not awarded grants were Planada and Dos Palos.
“These are very competitive grants,” Hertfelder said. “These two areas (Beachwood-Franklin and Winton) ranked very high.”
The projects are estimated to be completed by 2019.
Building Healthy Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to improving community health, along with other agencies, were responsible for a lot of the engagement and input from residents in the Beachwood-Franklin area. BHC and its partners announced news of the grant to area residents at Franklin Elementary School on Wednesday.
Tatiana Vizcaino-Stewart, hub manager for BHC in Merced, said the grant will create safer routes for children who use Lobo Avenue to and from school. It will encourage the use of bikes and safe walking, she said.
“This is huge for the Beachwood-Franklin area,” Vizcaino-Stewart said. “It’s a huge victory in terms of civic involvement.”
Some residents who live along B&B Boulevard, directly behind Franklin Elementary and adjacent to Lobo Avenue, expressed concerns about the daily traffic congestion in front of their homes. They had doubts whether the planned sidewalks on Lobo Avenue would actually prompt families to walk and ride bikes to school.
“I don’t think it will really make a difference,” said Sharon Slown, a longtime Beachwood-Franklin resident. “Parents will still be driving kids and dropping them off.”
Franklin Elementary Principal Cesar Hernandez, on the other hand, said the availability of sidewalks will bring peace of mind to staff and parents.
“It will also improve the appearance of our neighborhoods,” Hernandez said. “That’s something our community deserves.”