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TAYLORSVILLE -- Just in time for International Walk to School Day, Taylorsville opened a new walking route for students Wednesday. City leaders dedicated it to a crossing guard who was hit by a car and killed near there two years ago.
The "Skyhawk Skywalk" is what the students at Calvin Smith Elementary School named the new pedestrian bridge at 6200 South and 2200 West. Taylorsville Mayor Russ Wall says it will get a lot of foot traffic.
"There's about 600 kids that go to this school. We figure 75 percent are close enough to walk," Wall said.
But not many do because their parents drive them.
Costing $1.3 million -- paid for by the city of Taylorsville, the state, Granite School District, and even FedEx -- the bridge is expected to encourage more kids to walk to school.
"Right now the numbers are down because parents have felt uncomfortable having their kids walk to school across this road," Wall said.
According to the National Household Transportation Survey, 42 percent of children walked or biked to school in 1969; in 2009, that number had dropped to 13 percent.
The reason for the drop is safety. Crossing streets is much more dangerous today than it was 40 years ago.
Nearly two years ago, a beloved crossing guard in Taylorsville died while he was on duty. He was hit by a car in the crosswalk near Calvin Smith Elementary.
For years, Jim Smith safely shuffled kids at Bennion Junior High and Calvin Smith Elementary schools across busy roads. He was honored Wednesday with a plaque on the new bridge.
"We pay homage to firefighters and police officers; crossing guards perform a big service for the city, and it's dangerous job they have to do in all kinds of weather," Wall said.
The plaque will ensure that students don't forget Smith, and the bridge will keep them safe when crossing 6200 South even without him.
Schools across the world recognize International Walk to School Day by encouraging kids to do so. Even first lady Michelle Obama endorses it to get kids moving.