Putting Safety at the Forefront of Transportation Alternatives Implementation

Margo PedrosoSince it has been a full six months since MAP-21 was signed into law, we are now seeing progress and decisions on the implementation of the law.

At the federal level, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has released the full funding tables for all transportation programs, including Transportation Alternatives.  Now, any of the larger metropolitan areas that can run grant competitions under Transportation Alternatives can see exactly how much funding they will receive. Advocates should make sure they are reaching out to their metropolitan planning organizations to discuss their plans for the Transportation Alternatives competition. The other major item we are waiting on from FHWA is the final guidance for Transportation Alternatives and the sample application best practices.  We hope to see that in the next few weeks, as that will help jumpstart the availability of this funding.

At the state level, advocates in several states are asking state departments of transportation to supplement the limited Transportation Alternatives program with funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), which saw a big increase in most states.  Colorado will be using $2.6 million from HSIP for Transportation Alternatives, allowing them to maintain a standalone Safe Routes to School program at $1.5 million per year. Washington will retain its Safe Routes to School program at $3.6 million per year, funding in part from HSIP.

If you are considering making a similar case in your state, you will likely have to convince the state department of transportation that Safe Routes to School initiatives directly address safety, which is the core focus of the HSIP program.  We have two resources to help make that case in your state:

1) In California, advocates are pushing to use HSIP funding to maintain a Safe Routes to School program at the same funding level as in FY2012. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s California team developed a data-filled memo showing the risks of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities in the state, as well as the safety impacts of Safe Routes to School.  This memo could be adapted with your own state’s data.

2) The journal of Pediatrics has just published a new research study that looked the impact of Safe Routes to School interventions on child safety in New York City.  The study results are a wealth of data showing the impact of Safe Routes to School.  One of the most compelling results is that in areas with Safe Routes to School infrastructure improvements, the rate of injuries for school-aged pedestrians during school travel hours decreased 44 percent, compared to no change in areas without Safe Routes to School improvements.  This is exactly the type of data your state needs to hear so they understand why HSIP funding can and should be used for Safe Routes to School.

So – keep up the fight.  The new Pediatrics study clearly shows that when we fight for retaining a standalone Safe Routes to School program, we are fighting to save children’s lives. And, the results in Colorado and Washington show that this is a fight we can win.