Understanding the Federal Safe Routes to School Program
The Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) Program is a federal transportation funding program administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was established by Congress in 2005 as a part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
Over the course of five federal fiscal years, beginning in 2006, the program is slated to provide $612 million for local, regional and statewide SRTS activities.
The goals of the program as established in the legislation are to:
- enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school
- make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age
- facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution within the area surrounding (approximately 2 miles) primary and middle schools (grades K-8)
State Transportation Agencies Administer Federal SRTS Funding
State Departments of Transportation are designated by the federal legislation as the lead State agency through which SRTS funding is channeled. Each State has a SRTS Program Coordinator who is responsible for administering federal funding. The majority of States have a competitive application process to determine funding; this process is coordinated through your State SRTS Coordinator. You can contact the person from your State to find out how to access program funds.
Basic Program Parameters
1) Two types of projects are eligible for funding:
- Infrastructure projects (Engineering improvements)
- Non-infrastructure activities (such as Enforcement, Education, Encouragement, and program Evaluation activities)
2) Projects must be directed to students in primary or middle schools (i.e. schools that serve children in grades K–8).
- Traffic enforcement activities must take place within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school.
- Safety education and encouragement activities must be organized to serve students in this same grade range.
- Construction and capital improvement projects must be located within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school, and be intended to serve primarily K-8 students.
3) No State or local matching funds are required.
- All funding awards are 100 percent federal funds.
- All projects are administered on a cost reimbursable basis.
History of the SRTS Program:
You probably remember the last time a child was hit or killed by a motor vehicle in your community. If you were on duty and called to the scene, it is probably one of those incidents you will never forget.
The Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program is committed to helping local communities make these tragedies a rare occurrence while also increasing the overall number of children biking and walking to school.
In 1969, about half of all students in the U.S. walked or bicycled to school. Today, fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or bicycling. Many take a bus, but up to half of all school children go to and from school in a private automobile.
The shift of student walking and bicycling trips to auto trips has contributed to many problems that local communities are now struggling to address:
- increased traffic congestion, especially around schools
- a perceived decrease in pedestrian safety, especially on routes to school
- poor air quality around schools and related health problems for children such as asthma
- childhood obesity and related health problems such as type-2 diabetes
For more information:
- Federal SRTS Program
- National Center for Safe Routes to School
- SRTS Guide (Enforcement Chapter)
- State DOT SRTS Program Links