Take Action Now
Monarch Elementary School, Louisville, CO.
Now is an excellent time for communities to make decisions that will create environments that encourage walking and bicycling to school. These decisions will determine whether walking and bicycling are feasible school travel options for children in generations to come.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that U.S. student enrollment will grow by more than 3 million between 2007 and 2019. This growth will necessitate new school facilities. In addition, more than half of the school facilities in the U.S. are more than 40 years old. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects that $100 billion to $300 billion will be spent to bring existing educational facilities into good teaching condition. With the growing demand for new and renovated facilities, communities need to make informed decisions about implications of school construction, renovation and the importance of maintaining walking and bicycling as an option.
SAFETEA-LU: Federal Funding for Safe Routes to School
In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a national SRTS program. The program, which was signed into law in August 2005, dedicated a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009. These funds are being distributed to states in proportion to the number of primary and secondary school students in the state, with no state receiving less than approximately $1 million per year.
The federal transportation legislation Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act—a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), passed in August 2005, included funds to start a new national program called Safe Routes to School (SRTS). The $612 million SRTS program was to support projects to improve safety on walking and bicycling routes to school and to encourage children and families to travel between home and school using these modes.
Safe Routes to School programs operate in all 50 states and D.C. These funds have reached far and wide. Children benefiting from SRTS funds live in urban, rural and suburban communities representing varying income levels and a range of walking and bicycling conditions. As set forth in SAFETEA-LU, each state’s apportionment is based on its share of the national total of school-aged children in grades kindergarten through eight, with no state receiving less than one million dollars per year. As of December 31, 2011, the total amount apportioned to states equaled $978 million.
The legislation requires each state to have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator to serve as a central point of contact for the state. Designated percentages of SRTS funds must be used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. Specifically, the federal SRTS program provides funds that can be used for "planning, design, and construction of infrastructure-related projects that will substantially improve the ability of students to walk and bicycle to school, on any public road or any bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school," and "non infrastructure-related activities to encourage walking and bicycling to school, including public awareness campaigns and outreach to press and community leaders, traffic education and enforcement, student training, and funding for training, volunteers, and managers of SRTS programs." The federal SRTS program allows state, regional and local agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to receive funds for SRTS activities.