I feel like a real Safe Routes to School advocate. I finally rode in my first bike train. Although I talk about them all the time, I had never participated. Thanks to Wolfie’s Bike train and the kids of Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna, VA for letting me ride today! It was low 30s but we had over 10 kids who clearly knew the rules of the road and the way to school. They even tackle a big hill on their way! It was pretty cool to see kids from the neighborhood join and parents bring their kids from other neighborhoods. This is a dedicated group! Special thanks to dad/organizer Jeff Anderson and his wife for letting me 1) use a bike so I didn’t have to bring mine and 2) then giving me a helmet when I forgot mine by the front door! The Safe Routes to School family always comes through!!
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) just released their project solicitation for the Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program on March 1st. This solicitation replaces the stand alone Safe Routes to School funding previously available. This change is due to the new federal transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21. The TA program not only includes Safe Routes to School projects but other walking and bicycling projects too.
The TPB collaborated with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to create one application and deadline for the regional and state TA Program. This streamlines the process and reduces confusion.
An application workshop is being held this Friday, March 22, 2013. The workshop will also be available via webinar. All details are listed on the Transportation Alternatives Program for the National Capital Region. Potential applicants may also meet with TPB staff prior to applying.
Two good reasons to apply for a Safe Routes to School project
Besides the fact that research shows physically active students are healthier and perform better academically AND 10-14 percent of morning congestion is parents driving students to school, consider this:
- While the TA Program money available may not be large, when thinking about an infrastructure project, a Safe Routes to School program can change transportation habits in a community and benefit our children with less funding than an infrastructure project.
- Under the previous federal transportation bill, educating communities and adults on safe walking and bicycling were eligible activities. Under the new transportation bill, education of K-8th grades under Safe Routes to School is the only allowable education activities. It is important that education of our students is carried out. And they will take the message home to the family.
What you need to know
- Under the TA Program, eligible activities under Safe Routes to School did not change. Therefore the Five E’s and Safe Routes to School coordinators are still eligible activities.
- Walking and bicycling infrastructure projects are eligible projects. If you don’t choose a Safe Routes to School specific project, a great way to maximize funding is to choose projects where schools are in close proximity and can also benefit.
- There is a 20 percent match required. Safe Routes to School National Partnership has information on how to find the money for that match.
- The new federal transportation bill is for two years until September 30, 2014. This regional and state TA Program call for applications will be the only call for applications during this time.
- For specifics on your state TA Program, please see the National Capital Region TA Program website.
- Read the project solicitation material on the National Capital Region TA Program website.
- Register for the application workshop on March 22, 2013 from 12:30 to 3p. You can attend in person or via webinar.
- Talk to transportation agencies and school districts in your community about applying for funding.
- If you need assistance thinking about a Safe Routes to School project, contact the Greater Washington region Safe Routes to School network.
Do the states’ Safe Routes to School programs still exist?
State Safe Routes to School programs will still be in place to spend down monies from the previous transportation bill and monitor existing grants. Specifically:
- In Virginia, you will still see a VDOT Safe Routes to School call for applications in winter 2013 for non-infrastructure grants. This is using the remaining monies from the previous federal transportation bill which means grants will be 100 percent funded. The Quick Start Mini-grants are still available. VDOT is currently hosting workshops to help communities prepare for their grant opportunities. More information on their website.
- The District of Columbia has committed to continue the program as it has in the past under the new MAP-21 funding structure. More information is available on the DC Safe Routes to School program website.
- In Maryland, we know Safe Routes to School will be part of the TA Program work. It is not yet known the specific structure of the program.
For more information, please contact Christine Green.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Safe Routes to School program is hosting workshops statewide to help you apply for QuickStart Mini-grants and non-infrastructure funds. There will be two workshops in Northern Virginia:
Thursday, March 14
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Flint Hill Elementary School – Library
2444 Flint Hill Road, 22181
Wednesday, April 10
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Comission
400 E Kendrick Lane, 22630
Register now! As a bonus to attendees, two participants at each workshop will be chosen to have a walk/bike event planned at their school by VDOT!
The workshop will help you prepare projects idea and applications for the QuickStart Mini-grants. Additionally, it will provide information on how to complete a Program and Activities Plan which is required to apply for non-infrastructure funding. Non-infrastructure funding includes Safe Routes to School coordinators, educating students to be safe pedestrians and bicyclists and encourage students to walk and bicycle through fun events and incentives. Non-infastructure applications should be available in the spring.
QuickStart Mini-grant applications are available now. Mini-grants are up to $1,000 and have already benefited at least 13 schools in Northern Virginia. The grants are intended to help implement upcoming walk/bike projects at schools. This funding could be the kick start you need! Deadlines are March 14, April 18 and May 16 but once the money is gone, no more applications will be accepted so plan to apply early. More information on the VDOT Safe Routes to School website.
I am happy to talk about projects or potential opportunities at your school, please feel free to contact me. Any specific, application-oriented questions should be directed to the new Northern Virginia Local Technical Assistance Coordinator, Jim Elliott at Jim@VirginiaSRTS.org.
At 2p today, Vienna, VA Wolftrap Elementary School parent Jeff Anderson will be presenting on the Safe Routes to School National Partnership Learning Network webinar. He will share his experiences and expertise as a parent in Fairfax County Public Schools and member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling working to increasing walking and bicycling to school.
The focus of the webinar is how to advocate for policy that supports Safe Routes to School. Register for the webinar now!
If you would like more information on Jeff’s work and the Safe Routes to School momentum in Vienna, check out the Vienna, VA case study on our Best Practices page.