Safe Routes to School
RTC's Midwest Office has been privileged to be part of the Highland Elementary School Safe Routes to School pilot project since the 2004-2005 school year. Our participation has been in partnership with the Columbus Health Department, the City of Columbus, the Central Ohio Bicycle Advocacy Coalition, AAA of Ohio, and several other organizations. In addition to organizing "walking school busses" for children in this inner-city school district, the group has hosted outreach programs for parents and recruited parent volunteers to lead walking school busses. This innovative program provides safe passage to school while encouraging physical activity in children.
And now, thanks to SAFETEA-LU funding earmarked for Safe Routes to School (SRTS), children in communities across the country will benefit from similar programs in their communities. The SRTS Program provides $612 million over five fiscal years (FY20052009), in accordance with a formula specified in the legislation. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will apportion SRTS funding annually to each state in conjunction with regular federal aid highway apportionments. Section 1404(b) of the federal legislation pertaining to SRTS describes the purposes for which the SRTS program was created as:
- 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; and,
- 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.
Different locations are likely to develop different initiatives and projects that address one or more of the purposes, but the overall SRTS program within a state must meet all of these stated purposes. FHWA expects that states will develop many different approaches within the framework of the legislation. Consistent with other federal aid highway programs, SRTS funding is to be administered by the State Department of Transportation.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is in the process of appointing a coordinator for this program and hammering out its policies and procedures. The program will be administered in ODOT's Office of Local Projects and Linda Bailiff is currently serving as the interim director of the program.