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State committee setting rules for Safe Routes to School funding wants your input

Posted by on January 25th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Walking and biking to Beach Elementary in north Portland.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This article is by Portland resident Kari Schlosshauer. She’s the Pacific Northwest senior policy manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Last spring, House Bill 2017 passed in the Oregon Legislature, dedicating $10 million annually for Safe Routes to School infrastructure, increasing to $15 million annually in 2023. The purpose of the funding is to build projects within a one mile radius of schools to make it safer and easier for students to walk and bicycle to school. Following HB 2017, the Oregon Department of Transportation formed a Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) to amend the Oregon Safe Routes to School Rule. The purpose of the committee is to align the rule with new funding made available by recent state legislation, and consider how infrastructure funding for Safe Routes to School projects should be structured.

Here’s what the rulemaking committee is working on:

HB 2017 requires a 40 percent cash match for eligible projects. This may be reduced to 20 percent for projects near Title I schools, in School Safety Corridors, or in Small Communities.

The RAC’s job is to develop an ongoing oversight process and determine criteria for which projects can be funded. One of their key roles is to establish program definitions, including:

  • Title I school
  • What is a “Plan”
  • School Safety Corridor
  • Small Communities
  • Cash Match

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Additionally, the RAC is disussing program design options, overarching funding targets for social equity and rural communities to guide the allocation of funds, and a 1 percent fund for administrative costs and technical assistance.

Here are the two program options currently on the table:

Program Design Option 1: funding shared among three programs

  • Competitive: The majority of funds set aside for a competitive program that cities, counties, transit agencies and tribes could apply for. ODOT would not be eligible to apply. Advisory Committee sets criteria and makes project recommendations.
  • ODOT: A portion of funds set aside for an ODOT discretionary program. Advisory Committee sets criteria and is kept informed of the project selection.
  • Rapid Response: A small portions of funds set aside for urgent needs to systemic safety issues. Advisory Committee sets criteria and makes project recommendations.

Program Design Option 2: funding shared among two programs

  • Competitive Program: The majority of funds set aside for a competitive program that ODOT, cities, counties, transit agencies and tribes could apply for. Advisory Committee sets criteria and makes project recommendations.
  • Rapid Response: A small portion of funds set aside for urgent needs to systemic safety issues. Advisory Committee sets criteria and makes project recommendations.

What are your thoughts?

We want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on what kind of plan should be eligible? What is your reaction to the 40 percent cash match requirement? What’s missing? What sounds great? If you have ideas for how this program should be set up to reach the most students, please share them with us. You can email me at kari [at] saferoutespartnership [dot] org and I’ll share your feedback with the committee at our next meeting on February 13th. We welcome comments on any aspects of the program.

Additionally, all RAC meetings are open to the public and have options for public testimony, and there will be a 21 day minimum public comment period and three public hearings after the draft Rules are released in spring 2018. Learn more about the new Safe Routes to School program on the ODOT’s official website.

— Kari Schlosshauer, on Twitter at @SafeRoutesPNW

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3 Comments
  • Zach January 25, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    1) Protected bike lanes, 2) no cars turning into pedestrian signals, and 3) generous curb extensions on all four corners of every intersection within one mile of schools. Done!

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  • B. Carfree January 25, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Option 2 looks superior to Option 1 simply because ODOT seems to have the reverse-Midas touch when it comes to active transportation.

    I do have a tiny bit of trouble with requiring a 40% match in all cases except for the limited Title 1 exception. Without any data, I have a feeling there are schools located where children simply cannot ride/walk and the jurisdiction that owns the roads will never pony up the money. There’s just got to be a way to get it done so that all the money doesn’t continue to be biased towards children whose parents are more involved/connected. Maybe this isn’t happening, but it should at least be looked at somewhere down the road.

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  • Eric Leifsdad January 26, 2018 at 4:17 am

    It’s a shame that cars have more right to the roads than schoolchildren. Close the road to cars mid-block in front of every school and let drivers come up with the money to improve it for themselves. Treating safe routes funding like some kind of disaster relief or otherwise acting like children are besieged by some force of nature is a product of car culture. No amount of money will ever be enough as long as cars get everything they want first.

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