Oregon cities receive state grants to make it easier to walk and bike to school

Alameda Elementary School in northeast Portland. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

School is nearly out for summer vacation for many Oregon students. But transportation planners in their cities and school districts are already thinking beyond Labor Day, eager to make it easier for students and parents to use active transportation to get to school. Through Oregon Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Programschool districts have the opportunity to apply for infrastructure and non-infrastructure project grants to encourage and facilitate safe ways for children to walk, bike or ride to school.

“Supporting multimodal transport such as walking and rolling is a key part of ODOT Strategic action plan,” a ODOT press release on recent scholarships said. “The Safe Routes to School program helps Oregon communities make it easier to choose alternate modes of transportation.”

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has its own Safe Routes to School Programas do other communities in the state, such as Eugene Springfield, Salem Keizer and Beaverton. These programs are funded by local sources, such as Portland Gas Tax and Subway. But statewide funding gives projects an extra boost and can be especially beneficial in rural areas, including tribal communities.

ODOT’s Safe Routes to School funding addresses both non-infrastructure needs and infrastructure needs in a school community. On the non-infrastructural side, ODOT funding will allow school districts to do things like hire district Safe Routes to School coordinators who can lead education and awareness campaigns. These coordinators may also be able to connect school districts to their city’s transportation services to access funding for direct infrastructure projects.

ODOT has awarded 13 statewide scholarships to fund these education programs for fiscal years 2023 and 2024. Cities in Oregon are represented on the listing, from La Grande to Medford. The four scholarships awarded to programs in the Portland area are:

Portland Public Schools, $100,000 grant + $50,000 consulting services paid for by ODOT

PPS wants to be an active leader and champion of a district-wide SRTS program. We believe that the results of the SRTS program will result in a better place not only for our children, but for all residents of the city. A city where residents are safer, healthier, happier and better connected. The systematic SRTS approach begins with a dedicated, full-time PPS SRTS Coordinator who will work with a consultant to develop an implementation plan. This plan will create a vision for a district-wide SRTS program, as well as establish meaningful objectives, goals, and initiatives for the youth they serve. The first phase of the plan will focus primarily on the 38 schools in need of the PPS, with priority given to elementary and middle schools that score higher on the TDI. Additionally, we will bring together the right people to form an SRTS Advisory Committee led by PPS, with participation from our supporting partners. The committee will meet regularly to evaluate, make improvements and move the program forward. Consistent and clear communication will be essential for a strong SRTS program. The Coordinator will work closely with PPS Communications to reach our target audience(s).

Bike Works by P:ear, $100,000 grant + $50,000 consulting services paid for by ODOT

Bike Works by P:ear will continue to partner with Multnomah County SRTS to deliver transportation health programs to East County with a full-time SRTS coordinator. We are in a unique position to expand our capabilities across jurisdictions, expand the current SRTS program, work collaboratively with other SRTS practitioners, and create equitable transportation options for the community. During 2022-2023, we will continue to provide courses and outreach activities with Multnomah County SRTS and will transition to providing the majority of in-person courses by 2023-2024.

City of Portland, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), $35,000

Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) SRTS staff will train Elevate Oregon high school teacher mentors to lead a transportation academy. The main objective of the Academy is to teach road safety skills. Subtopics will be chosen based on students’ needs, interests, and goals. Topics include multimodal literacy, climate connections, transportation equity, civic engagement, and safe systems. The Academy consists of lessons led by Elevate teachers, subject matter experts as guest speakers, student projects, and a final student presentation. Student projects may include, but are not limited to, educating young students about road safety, photo voice acting, acting as a walking school bus conductor or corner greeter, or creating a campaign of safety messages. Presentation types will depend on the project and will be designed to benefit elementary or middle school students in the Parkrose community. These presentations will take place either during school or as part of the after-school program, Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN). This innovative project not only engages high school students, but also benefits elementary and middle school students through educational presentations.

Beaverton School District, $87,722

The Beaverton Safe Routes to School program will work to increase active transportation (bicycle, scooter, skateboard, bus and carpooling) to school and reduce single-passenger trips. The goal is to increase the safety of students traveling to and from school, to increase the ability of students to confidently choose to use active modes of transportation and, in ultimately, to increase the safety and health of the whole community through the reduction of traffic and the resulting congestion. . The proposed education, events, and community engagement will benefit the entire district, while direct service will primarily focus on the fifteen Title 1 elementary schools, seven additional middle/high schools serving student populations at more 40% low-income and schools faced with transportation. and district boundary changes. Beaverton Safe Routes will work with BSD, the City of Beaverton, Washington County and THPRD to prioritize needed projects and events throughout the district to create additional opportunities for walking and riding to school and throughout the piece.

In addition to the education grants, ODOT also announced that it will work with 13 new rural communities to provide project identification assistance, which will involve these communities working with consultants to create their first Safe Routes plans. to School. These plans analyze existing community conditions and create a plan that people can work with when considering implementing policies to help children walk and cycle to school safely. You can read examples of past plans on the ODOT Safe Routes to School website.

School districts and cities vying for infrastructure funding are in a much tougher competition. This year, 85 claimants applied for money to fill sidewalks and safe passages near schools, their claims totaling more than $80 million. ODOT only has $26 million to spend, so many of these demands will not be met. The process to decide who will receive the infrastructure funding is still ongoing, and the grants will be awarded in January next year.

The City of Portland has requested $3 million to $4 million of that $26 million for two construction projects in East Portland: improving the filling of sidewalks and walkways near Powell Butte Elementary School, building a a paved footbridge to serve the students of the Alice Ott college. You can find the list of 85 candidates here.

Over the next few years, ODOT will add $30 million from the federal government Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act funding currently used for Safe Routes to School projects. It’s unclear exactly how that money will be distributed, but it should provide additional aid to fund more infrastructure and education projects.

It’s exciting to see projects underway that allow children to get to school safely without having to be dropped off in a car. Many transportation advocates praise communities in which children have the freedom and agency to walk and cycle safely. Just look at the positivity coming from the ‘bike buses’ that Portland physical education teacher and bike advocate Sam Balto has organized over the past few weeks as a safe and fun way to get kids to do cycling to school! With more official funding for programs aimed at getting kids moving and reducing families’ reliance on cars, more communities will be able to reap these benefits.

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