More than 4,000 programs across the U.S. have received Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Federal funds to improve sidewalks, crosswalks, signage and other infrastructure in the vicinity of schools, as well as provide education programs to teach children and motorists about safe walking and bicycling, and encouraging walking and bicycling to school once the environment is made safe. States' Departments of Transportation have awarded more than 80 percent of available Safe Routes to School Federal funds after only three years of the start of the Federal initiative.
"This is impressive progress for such a new program," said Lauren Marchetti, Director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. "This reflects how the Safe Routes to School program touches so many of the things people care about these days — increasing physical activity among children, reducing congestion and improving air quality around schools, improving safety and creating a sense of community."
Safe Routes to School funding was made available through the transportation legislation (SAFETEA-LU), passed in 2005. Funding is distributed to individual states by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. State DOTs then award the funds to local communities. Each state works within its own guidelines, and within Federal rules, to award funds in a competitive process — with some states receiving hundreds of applications for a limited amount of available funds.
The goals of the Safe Routes to School Federal program are to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school; to make the trip to school safer and more appealing; and to facilitate planning, development and implementation of projects that will improve safety, and reduce traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.
"The early success of Safe Routes to School clearly shows a demand for transportation choices that go beyond the automobile," said James L. Oberstar, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. "This program will shape the habits of an entire generation by providing transportation options that are safe, environmentally sound, and healthy."