Safe Routes to School is strong, but there is more to do

Community leaders, parents and schools across the state and throughout the nation are using Safe Routes to School programs to enable and encourage more children to walk and bicycle to school safely. Kids who walk or bike to school get more exercise and arrive more alert and ready to learn. Programs that encourage walking and biking to school could greatly impact the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Many Pennsylvania communities are implementing education programs to teach safe practices and infrastructure projects to improve sidewalks and crosswalks near schools. As schools grapple with budget cuts, even more are looking to do so.

Beginning in 2005, the federal Safe Routes to School program has provided Pennsylvania with over $29 million in funding for these kinds of projects. Of this, $9 million has not yet been committed to projects. Pennsylvania was one of the last states to hire a federally funded Safe Routes to School coordinator, and Pennsylvania has the 49th lowest obligation rate for releasing Safe Routes to School funding.

Safe Routes to School goes beyond the federal funding program. Many schools, municipalities and nonprofit organizations have leveraged other state and federal funding sources to promote Safe Routes to School. These funding sources include: Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative, Transportation Enhancements, Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative, and Pennsylvania Department of Health mini-grants.

Proposals to enhance Safe Routes to School

Make use of existing funding through a new round of infrastructure projects

Pennsylvania has $9 million dedicated to Safe Routes to School that has not been committed to existing projects. There is huge demand for this funding in communities across the state. It is within PennDOTʼs discretion to make this money available for another project round at any time. Based on the pace at which projects in the last round are being completed, it is unlikely that projects in a new round of funding would go to construction before the current round is complete.

Prioritize existing Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects

Many school districts and small municipalities who have already received funding for projects lack the expertise to fulfill the federal requirements attached to the funding. By prioritizing these projects, PennDOT can give extra help to these project sponsors to move these projects forward.

Include walking and biking in state standards for physical education and school health and wellness plans



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