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Safe Routes to Schools grants announced this week will help the city of Blue Earth add trails and improve pedestrian routes, and will help update a plan for pedestrian improvements near Mankato schools.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is granting $2.3 million to 29 cities and school districts to support infrastructure and programs that encourage more students to walk and bike to school and to make their routes safe.

Mankato Area Public Schools is among 18 recipients of planning grants. The district received $25,000 to partner with the Region Nine Development Commission to update and expand its Safe Routes to Schools plan.

The plan was drafted in 2013 and included desired improvements around six of the district's elementary schools, said Shawn Schloesser, Region Nine community and business development specialist.

The wish lists for those schools will be updated, and needs around the new Prairie Winds Middle School also will be evaluated and added to the plan.

The work will begin in August, Schloesser said, and likely will be completed next spring.

The city of Blue Earth is among 11 cities receiving grants to help implement components of their plans. Blue Earth is getting $91,000 to aid trail, sidewalk and crossing improvements it will make in 2021. The city previously received a $246,000 federal grant to support the project that City Administrator Timothy Ibisch said is estimated to cost around $500,000.

The city plans to add a trail along Leland Parkway, near an apartment complex. A new sidewalk segment also will be added at the high school — from the parking lot and along Fairview Street to connect with existing sidewalk along Highway 169.

Other work will include street and railroad crossing projects to improve pedestrian safety and handicap accessibility. A sidewalk leading to the elementary school also will be replaced with a new path.

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