Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Wiggins urges communities to pursue Safe Routes to School funds

SACRAMENTO – North Coast State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) is encouraging cities and counties from within the state’s 2nd Senate District to apply for the next round of funding for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.


The 2nd District, which Wiggins represents in the Legislature, includes the counties of Lake, Humboldt, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma.


While in the Assembly, Wiggins was co-author of legislation (Assembly Bill 1475) establishing the SRTS program in 1999.


The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which administers SRTS, recently put out a call for communities to apply for funding grants, which are designed to provide students in grades K-12 with easier and healthier ways to safely travel to and from schools.


“Pedestrian accidents have been a leading cause of fatal injuries for school-aged children, including in school zones lacking crosswalks or sidewalks,” Wiggins said. “That is one of the many great things about this program: Funds can be used for crosswalks, pedestrian and bicycle pathways, bike lanes, sidewalks and a number of ‘traffic calming’ measures.


“By creating a more hospitable environment for children to walk or ride to school,” Wiggins added, “we are also helping to promote exercise, which is a necessary component of the effort to reduce the incidence of obesity in our young people.”


On its Web site, Caltrans describes Safe Routes to School as “an international movement that has taken hold in communities throughout the United States. The concept is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school by funding projects that remove the barriers that currently prevent them from doing so. Those barriers include lack of infrastructure, unsafe infrastructure, lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling through education/encouragement programs aimed at children, parents, and the community.”


The highly competitive program (local school districts, boards, city councils and state agencies can request funding through yearly application cycles) has enabled communities to increase the safety of children walking or riding to school.


The grant funds have been awarded for projects in Lake County, as Lake County News has reported.

 

Wiggins' office reported that $48.50 million worth of projects will be funded in the next cycle. Caltrans districts are apportioned funds based on student enrollment. District review committees will score and rate applications using standardized evaluation forms furnished by Caltrans headquarters and develop two lists.


Once projects are selected and prioritized, Caltrans districts will then determine which projects will be placed on the Tier I list (those that are ready to go now), and on the Tier II list (those that are selected for future funds) based on a project’s delivery schedule. Projects in Tier I will be funded with FY 08/09 funds up to FY08/09 apportionment level, while Tier II projects will be funded when the next round of funding becomes available. Caltrans will validate district selections and compile a statewide list of selected projects for each cycle for director approval. Districts will notify all applicants of the results.


Any incorporated city or county is eligible to apply. Capital projects must fall under the broad categories of pedestrian facilities, traffic calming measures, installation of traffic control devices, construction of bicycle facilities, and public outreach, education and enforcement. There is a 10% local match required; $900,000 is the maximum amount that can be requested.


For more information, communities are encouraged to visit www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/saferoutes.htm, or contact Joyce Parks, Safe Routes to School coordinator at Caltrans Headquarters, at 916-653-6920, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Applicants must submit an original and one copy to their respective Caltrans district local assistance engineers by the April 15 deadline. Applications postmarked on the deadline are acceptable. Additional information is available at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/dlae.htm.


Thirty years ago, 60 percent of children living within a two-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15 percent. Roughly 25 percent commute by school bus, and well over half are driven to/from school in vehicles. And back then, 5 percent of children between the ages of six and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese. Today, that number has climbed to 20 percent.


These statistics point to a rise in preventable childhood diseases, worsening air quality and congestion around schools, and missed opportunities for children to grow into self reliant, independent adults.


Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, comprised of parts of all of six counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Readers interested in learning more about the Senator can visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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