Last week Congress passed a new transportation bill with significant changes to the federal Safe Routes to School program and the Transportation Enhancements program which funds walking and bicycling. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership) has released a statement with America Bikes.
There is a detailed Q&A on the National Partnership blog. In short, dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School has been eliminated but Safe Routes to School is still eligible for funding in a new program called Transportation Alternatives. Transportation Alternatives combines several other walking and bicycling programs and introduces new projects as well. This is a decrease in funding for Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling. Under this new funding method, states will determine if Safe Routes to School state coordinators are funded and if there will be a competitive grant process at the state level. For communities the size of the Greater Washington region, there will be a new competitive grant process at the Metropolitan Planning Organization level in which Safe Routes to School and walking and bicycling projects will be eligible. For Greater Washington, the competitive grant process will be held through the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. For more details, please see the National Partnership blog.
While the new transportation bill is not ideal, it is impossible to take away the momentum of Safe Routes to School in the Greater Washington region and the nation. It may require us to be more creative or ask our local officials to prioritize infrastructure around schools. It require us network in our region, find out what works and learn from each other. We need to talk about the successes we have so that a competitive grant process at the regional level prioritize Safe Routes to School and states decide to continue funding their programs. The Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network will assist in this endeavor. I will be coming back to you with my ideas, please let me know yours as well.