While the pool of money allocated to the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program stands at $147 million, you might want to go after your share of the funding this year before it dries up—or gets reallocated.

In 1997, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) kicked off Safe Routes with two pilots totaling $100,000. The program—designed to foster implementation of plans that reduce traffic congestion, cut the number of accidents, and encourage children to exercise—has since spread nationwide. Although funded nationally, each state is responsible for implementing the program.

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) and other detractors, however, believe the money would be better spent on other transportation programs. Duncan has pointed to the $183 million allocation the Safe Roads program will receive in 2009, compared to $100 million set aside for emergency highway repairs (like the I-35 bridge collapse), and $90 million for improvements on high-risk rural roads.

In any case, creating safer places for children to walk or ride alleviates a number of concerns:

  • Childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high.
  • About 25% of morning rush hour traffic can be attributed to parents driving children to school.
  • In 2004, 29,000 children in the United States were injured while walking or bicycling.

Implementing an SRTS program would help cut congestion and increase safety in your community, but you need a plan of attack before the funding can be yours. To contact your state's coordinator, get advice on crafting a plan, and garner other advice, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org.

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