HOMESchool SafetySRTSAbout
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Not so long ago, walking and biking to school was as common as today’s more familiar ritual of parents dropping and picking up children from schools all across the U.S. In 1969, nearly 50 percent of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, however, the story is very different. Fewer than 15 percent of trips to and from schools are made by walking or bicycling, compared to 25 percent on school buses, and over 50 percent made in private automobiles.

The decline in walking and bicycling has had an adverse effect on traffic congestion and air quality around schools as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety. In addition, a growing body of evidence has shown that children who lead sedentary lifestyles are at risk for a variety of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Safety issues are a big concern for parents, who consistently cite traffic danger as a reason why their children are unable to bicycle or walk to school.

The purpose of the Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program is to address these issues head on. The Program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school a safe and routine activity once again. The Program makes funding available for a wide variety of programs and projects, from building safer street crossings to establishing programs that encourage children and their parents to safely walk and bicycle to school.

Origin of the program

The Safe Routes to School Program is a 100% federally funded reimbursement program established by the August 2005 SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users Act) Transportation Bill. The legislation provides funding (for the first time) for State Departments of Transportation to create and administer SRTS programs which allows communities to compete for funding for local safety projects and educational initiatives. SRTS is funded at $612 million and provides Federal-aid highway funds to State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) over five Federal fiscal years (FY2005-2009), each State’s share is based in accordance with a formula specified in the legislation. These funds are available for infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects, and for the administration of the State Safe Routes to School programs that benefit elementary and middle school children in grades K-8.

The intent of the program is:

  • To enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.
  • To make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
  • To facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

The Federal-aid SRTS Program is administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Safety.

Funding Guidelines

The SAFETEA-LU legislation provides funding for the SRTS Program over five Federal fiscal years (FY2005-2009), in accordance with a formula specified in the legislation, no State shall receive an appointment under $1,000,000 per year. The State of Oklahoma anticipates receiving an allotment of approximately $1,000,000 annually.

Funding for approved projects and activities will be on a 100% cost reimbursement basis. Sponsored agencies will be required to enter into a contract with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Agency will agree to let the projects/activities, and pay the contractors as work is performed. The agency will then submit and invoice along with appropriate supporting documents for reimbursement. All cost overruns or unapproved activities will be the responsibility of Project Sponsor.

As with any grant programs, applications always exceed available funding resources. When this occurs, worthy projects may not be able to receive funding due to the limited resources. Participants in the SRTS program are encouraged to creatively leverage available funds through partnerships in an effort to maximize available resources.

There are many additional federal, state and local funding sources available to complement the Federal Safe Routes to School resources. Supplemental funding resources that could be used include but are not limited to health, recreation, transportation, physical education, law enforcement, and safety funds. Flexible transportation resources including the Transportation Enhancements Program, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, Equity Bonus Funds, the new state Highway Safety Improvement Program, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 402 Traffic Safety funds are available and eligible to be used for certain Safe Routes to School projects.

Eligible SRTS Activities

The SRTS legislation identifies eligible funding recipients as State, local, and regional agencies, including nonprofit organizations that demonstrate an ability to meet the requirements of the program.

The program makes allowance for two funding categories: Infrastructure, and Non-infrastructure. The categories are defined as follows:

  • Infrastructure related activities — Related activities in this category include the planning, engineering (including Consult services), design, and construction of projects that will substantially improve the ability of students to walk or bicycle to school safely. Projects may include, but are not limited to:
    • Sidewalk improvements: new sidewalks, sidewalk widening, sidewalk gap closures, sidewalk repairs, curbs, gutters, and curb ramps.
    • Traffic calming and speed reduction improvements: roundabouts, bulb-outs, speed humps, raised crossings, raised intersections, median refuges, narrowed traffic lanes, lane reductions, full or half-street closures, automated speed enforcement, and variable speed limits.
    • Pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements: crossings, median refuges, raised crossings, raised intersections, traffic control devices (including new or upgraded traffic signals, pavement markings, traffic stripes, in-roadway crossing lights, flashing beacons, bicycle-sensitive signal actuation devices, pedestrian countdown signals, vehicle speed feedback signs, and pedestrian activated signal upgrades), and sight distance improvements.
    • On-street bicycle facilities: new or upgraded bicycle lanes, widened outside lanes or roadway shoulders, geometric improvements, turning lanes, channelization and roadway realignment, traffic signs, and pavement markings.
    • Off-street bicycle and pedestrian facilities: exclusive multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trails and pathways that are separated from a roadway.
    • Secure bicycle parking facilities: bicycle parking racks, bicycle lockers, designated areas with safety lighting, and covered bicycle shelters.
    • Traffic diversion improvements: separation of pedestrians and bicycles from vehicular traffic adjacent to school facilities, and traffic diversion away from school zones or designated routes to a school.

For infrastructure projects, funds must be spent on projects within the public right of way. This may include projects on private land that have public access easements. Public property includes lands that are owned by a public entity, including those lands owned by public school districts. Construction and capital improvement projects also must be located within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school (grades K-8). Schools with grades that extend higher than grade 8, but which include grades that fall within the eligible range, are eligible to receive infrastructure improvements.

Projects on private land must have a written legal easement or other written legally binding agreement that ensures public access to the project. There must be an easement filed of record, which specifies the minimum length of time for the agreement to maximize the public investment in the project. The project agreement should clearly state in writing:

  1. The purpose of the project.
  2. The minimum time-frame for the easement or lease.
  3. The duties and responsibilities of the parties involved.
  4. How the property will be used and maintained in the future.

The project must remain open for general public access for the use for which the funds were intended for the timeframe specified in the easement or lease. The public access should be comparable to the nature and magnitude of the investment of public funds.

Reversionary clauses may be appropriate in some instances. These clauses would assure that if the property is no longer needed for the purpose for which it was acquired, it would revert to the original owner.

  • Non-infrastructure related activities —
    • Public awareness campaigns and outreach to press and community leaders,
    • Traffic education and enforcement in the vicinity of schools,
    • Student sessions on bicycle and pedestrian safety, health, and environment, and
    • Funding for training, volunteers, and managers of safe routes to school programs.

Traffic education and enforcement activities must take place within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school (grades K-8). Other eligible activities under the non-infrastructure portion of the SRTS Program do not have a location restriction. Education and encouragement activities are allowed at private schools as long as other non-infrastructure program criteria are fulfilled.

Comprehensive approach for a successful project

Research suggests that an effective way to increase walking and bicycling in a community is through a comprehensive approach incorporating (directly or indirectly) five components referred to as the “5 E’s”. The 5 E’s are:

  1. Engineering — Creating operational and physical improvements to the infrastructure surrounding schools that reduce speeds and potential conflicts with motor vehicle traffic, and establish safer and fully accessible crossings, walkways, trails and bikeways.
  2. Education — Teaching children about the broad range of transportation choices, instructing them in important lifelong bicycling and walking safety skills, and launching driver safety campaigns in the vicinity of schools.
  3. Enforcement — Partnering with local law enforcement to ensure traffic laws are obeyed in the vicinity of schools (this includes enforcement of speeds, yielding to pedestrians in crossings , and proper walking and bicycling behaviors), and initiating community enforcement such as crossing guard programs.
  4. Encouragement — Using events and activities to promote walking and bicycling.
  5. Evaluation — Monitoring and documenting outcomes and trends through the collection of data, including the collection of data before and after the intervention(s).

HOMESchool SafetySRTSAbout