Oregon Transportation Focuses on Safe Routes to School

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Oregon Legislature's state transportation funding plan invests in cleaner, healthier transportation options for Oregonians, including ongoing dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School. Since the passage of HB 2017 last July, the Oregon Transportation Commission and Oregon Department of Transportation have been busy getting ready to invest this new transportation revenue, including improvements to how Safe Routes to School funding is spent in Oregon.

SRTS street safety project funding (INFRASTRUCTURE)

HB 2017 dedicated $10 million per year in funding for street safety fixes within a mile of schools. Oregon's state DOT is currently making rules for this upcoming SRTS funding for street safety projects near schools. ODOT established a Rules Advisory Committee that will work through Spring 2018 with a two-fold purpose:

  • To update the Oregon Administrative Rule to align with the new SRTS funding.
  • To make recommendations to ODOT on how the SRTS infrastructure funding program should be set up.

The Committee will meet monthly. Follow along and look for the draft rules out in early 2018.

As we wrote at the time of the bill's passage, in addition to any work ODOT will undertake to allocate SRTS infrastructure funding, the Oregon Safe Routes to School community has much work ahead, including working with cities, counties, and school districts to facilitate and prioritize increased funding for Safe Routes to School infrastructure, and ensuring lower-income communities are effectively notified of this new opportunity to improve street safety around schools.

Safe Routes to School initiatives have been shown to significantly reduce pedestrian injury, and as a recent study showed, when combined with programmatic support, we can expect a 43 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates over five years:

  • After an engineering improvement was completed, schools saw an 18 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates.
  • Each year of Safe Routes to School education and encouragement programming resulted in a five percent increase in walking and bicycling rates—adding up to 25 percent after five years.
  • These results could be cumulative – so a school that implements a comprehensive Safe Routes to School initiative with engineering improvements plus five years of education and encouragement would result in a 43 percent increase in walking and bicycling rates.

SRTS Education program funding (NON-INFRASTRUCTURE)

Write in your support for increased funding to SRTS education programs in Oregon!

On December 15, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), the body that establishes state transportation policy and oversees ODOT, will decide on the 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, i.e. how and on what ODOT spends transportation dollars. The OTC has funded a Safe Routes to School education program in the Transportation Safety Division at a level of $500,000 per year, after dedicated federal funding for the program was eliminated. This programmatic funding is complementary and essential to the success of SRTS street safety fixes, and has been utilized by numerous local jurisdictions and school districts over the years, but has fallen far short of reaching even a significant percentage of youth in Oregon. Past recommendations and advocacy sought to increase this amount to be able to reach more schools, but this was not included in HB 2017. ODOT now recommends increasing support for education programs from current $1.5 million to $3 million for the 2021-24 cycle.

Read our comment letter, and submit your own comment in support of increased SRTS education program funding. Comments are due to OTC before their December meeting, or you can testify in person in Salem on December 15.