The new federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program has been quickly embraced by most state departments of transportation, according to a report released by the national Safe Routes to School Partnership.
Safe Routes to School is a national program that creates safe, convenient and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from their schools. The program seeks to increase the number of children walking and bicycling to schools, and to improve traffic safety and mobility.
SRTS also aims to play a crucial role in helping children be more active on a daily basis and help reverse an alarming nationwide trend toward increasing rates of childhood obesity.
The report showed how each state rates in the progress toward establishing a SRTS program. Idaho received the highest score possible by completing all criteria, including hiring a coordinator, establishing an advisory committee, releasing application guidelines and selecting projects.
Since June, the Idaho Transportation Department has already awarded $1.5 million in federal funds for 21 projects statewide as part of the Idaho's Safe Routes to School program. The program is administered through ITD and coordinated by Josephine O’Connor. Idaho’s First Lady Lori Otter serves as a leading spokesperson for the effort.
“ITD would be nowhere with the Safe Routes to School program without Jo O’Connor,” said Brent Jennings, state highway operations and safety engineer. “I would put her program up against any other state for quality and completeness.”
The report highlighted 12 early SRTS state success stories, including Idaho for building sidewalks for elementary school students in Sandpoint.
“Principal Anne Bagby recalls many close calls between automobiles and students walking to Farmin Stidwell Elementary School. And until recently, the children had no choice but to walk in the street to get to school, because there were no sidewalks,” the report states.
Sandpoint and the school district requested an SRTS federal grant to
create a sidewalk on nearby Madison Street. The Idaho Transportation
Department approved the application, and the city contributed additional
funding to expand the sidewalk project.”