MAYVILLE - New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald recently announced that applications are available for $23.9 million in federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funding for infrastructure improvements and public education campaigns across the State to encourage elementary and middle school children to safely walk and bike to school.
"Providing crosswalks, bike paths, sidewalks and other types of safe accommodations near schools, along with programs to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety, will promote healthy modes of transportation by making it safer for children to walk or bike to school," Commissioner McDonald said. "This federal funding provides a way for us to invest in our communities and create more sustainable infrastructure that is in harmony with the needs of local families and schools."
Eligible projects must be located within two miles of a primary or middle school, be located on municipal right-of-way, benefit the public interest and address at least one of the five SRTS categories.
Categories include engineering (infrastructure) efforts, as well as education, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation of program impact (non-infrastructure) efforts.
The intent of Safe Routes to School is to enable and encourage children to walk or bicycle to school; help children adopt a more healthy and active lifestyle by making bicycling and walking a safer and more appealing transportation alternative; and facilitate the planning, development and implementation of transportation projects that will improve safety while reducing traffic, fuel consumption and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.
Federal funding was made available to NYSDOT, which administers the SRTS program and will reimburse 100 percent of eligible project costs for successful applicants.
Between 70 and 90 percent of funding will be used on targeted infrastructure improvements located within a two-mile radius of an elementary or middle school. This could include installation of traffic signals or crosswalks, construction or rehabilitation of sidewalks and traffic mitigation measures.
The remaining 10 to 30 percent of funding will be provided to local municipalities, school districts, police agencies and non-profit organizations for non-infrastructure public-education and public-outreach projects. This may include conducting police enforcement operations and developing education programs for parents and children on the benefits of walking or bicycling to school.
Applications for the Safe Routes to School program will be accepted through Oct. 5. Project awards will be announced by the end of the year.
"Walking or bicycling to school helps students in a variety of ways," says Christine Schuyler, Public Health Director, "Students arrive at school energized and ready to learn. Safe, walkable, bicycle friendly routes to school make it much easier for youth to reach the recommended goal of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This is a huge step in the right direction towards ending our childhood obesity epidemic."
Technical assistance to local communities is available through the Chautauqua County Health Department.
Interested school districts or community members are encouraged to contact the County Health Department at 753-4789 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about SRTS is available on the NYSDOT Safe Routes to School website at www.dot.ny.gov/safe-routes-to-school