National Policy and Advocacy

National Policy and Advocacy

A key focus of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership is to serve as an advocate for Safe Routes to School and related issues with Congress and the federal government and to monitor implementation of Safe Routes to School funding. Because Safe Routes to School affects communities in so many ways, our legislative priorities include transportation, education, health, and the environment.

Below you will find the latest information on the National Partnership’s legislative priorities and calls to action. You can explore the links on the left for more detailed information on legislative priorities, implementation, policy background, and a toolkit to help you engage Members of Congress.

MAP-21 Resource Center

In late June 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that makes significant changes to funding for bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School. We have assembled a wealth of materials on this new legislation and its impact on Safe Routes to School in our MAP-21 Resource Center.

Latest News and Information:

Two New National Partnership Publications Highlight Federal Safe Routes to School Policy

This week, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership published a new policy report with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, entitled Safe Routes to School: How States are Adapting to a New Legislative FrameworkAdditionally, we updated our Snapshot of State Implementation of the Transportation Alternatives Program. While both provide a still incomplete picture of how Safe Routes to School is faring under the now two-year-old Transportation Alternatives Program, the report in particular gives some reason for optimism. You can read more about both reports, with our analasys on this month's federal policy blog.

New State of the States Report will look at TAP Spending Alongside Dedicated Safe Routes to School Funding From SAFETEA-LU

September 24, 2014: MAP-21, our nation’s surface transportation law, folded dedicated Safe Routes to School funding into the new Transportation Alternatives Program along with a number of other eligibilities.  Beginning this quarter, we will now be publishing two State of the State reports, looking at the remaining dedicated funding from SAFETEA-LU, and the new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

This quarter’s SAFETEA-LU report shows a slight increase in new funding obligated for Safe Routes to School projects, at $25,135,632, bringing total obligations to 70%  Unfortunately, only $8,344,076 in new awards have been announced, making an ongoing focus on getting the last 14% of awards out the door critical. One bit of good news: between federal and state funds, more than $1 billion have been announced for Safe Routes to School projects across the nation!

Our first TAP report shows that states have made some progress in rolling out TAP funding, with 17% of funds ($217,693,441) now obligated.  In total, $52,338,024 has been announced for Safe Routes to School Projects from MAP-21 funding.  However, this total includes other pots of federal money, including HSIP, STP, CMAQ .  Of note, a total spending on Safe Routes to School projects is unknown in a number of states.  We are hopeful that this report will show a more complete picture of Safe Routes to School spending as more data becomes available in future quarters. 

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces Major New Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Initiative

September 12, 2014: Advocates for bicycle and pedestrian safety are celebrating a significant victory this week, with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx announcing a number of new safety initiatives to be undertaken at the USDOT. The announcement, made by Secretary Foxx at this week's Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference, couldn’t be better timed, with injuries and deaths for bicyclists and pedestrians on the rise across the nation. Read More...

A Perfect Time to Engage Your Members of Congress

August 25, 2014: August may be slow here in Washington D.C., but the coming several months are a great time for you at home to highlight the changes Safe Routes to School are making in your community. With somewhere in the ballpark of 20 legislative days left before the end of the year and mid-term elections just around the corner, you can bet members of Congress will be at home and engaged in their communities.  And with school already back in session for many children across the country, there couldn’t be a better time to engage your leaders. Read More...

No Clear Path Forward for Transportation Funding in Washington D.C.

August 4, 2014: Here in Washington D.C., we had all hoped lawmakers in would come up with a four to six year solution to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent. Yet we are now facing the unfortunate reality that at least one short term patch will be required to give Members of Congress time to sort through a growing stack of short and long-term financing plans.  A failure to extend the trust fund beyond July could jeopardize 112,000 construction projects, nearly 700,000 jobs, and of course, Safe Routes to School projects across the country.  In this week’s blog we look at several proposals put forward by lawmakers, new attacks on TAP funding by Senator Toomey (R-PA) and some good news for Safe Routes to School in our newest quarterly State of the States Report. Read More…

First Quarter Shows Increase in State Spending

June 27, 2014: The first quarterly State of the States report for 2014 shows an uptick in funding announced and obligated for Safe Routes to School projects across the nation.  After last quarter’s expectedly slow rollout of Safe Routes dollars, we anticipate a much stronger showing this year, as a number of states prepare to award remaining SAFETEA-LU funds.  Moving forward, a continued focus on building and implementing projects will be critical, with 85 percent of Safe Routes dollars awarded but only 68 percent obligated.

Senate Transportation Bill Includes Key Improvements for Safe Routes to School

May 12, 2014: The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released their draft bill reauthorizing MAP-21, which would fund our nation’s surface transportation programs for an additional six years.   Before the bill can come to the Senate floor for a vote, however, the Senate Finance Committee must complete the daunting task of shoring up the funding for our soon-to-be bankrupt Highway Trust Fund. See how this legislation impacts Safe Routes to School on our blog

National Partnership Issues New Snapshot of State TAP Implementation

May 2, 2014: The National Partnership is monitoring implementation of the Transportation Alternatives program (TAP), to help us all understand which states are transferring funds away from the program, which ones are moving forward with application cycles, and which ones are retaining a commitment to Safe Routes to School.  Our latest snapshot is now available, and for the most part it shows positive movement for Safe Routes to School and TAP. Three more states have transferred funding out, but there are only four states that have transferred funds for two years in a row.  Five more states have set application deadlines for TAP, two more states are retaining their SRTS coordinator, and three more states are providing matching funds to Safe Routes to School projects. See how your state rates!

Administration Sends Transportation Bill to Congress

April 30, 2014: The U.S. Department of Transportation sent their long awaited transportation policy bill to Congress this week.  The bill would reauthorize our surface transportation programs for an additional four years at $302 billion, and lays a positive framework for bringing greater safety, equity, and focus on multi-modal transportation options for all of our nation’s road users.  Read more about how this bill would impact walking and bicycling programs on our blog

USDOT Sidesteps Safety as Congress Focuses in on Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure

March 28, 2014: The U.S. Department of Transportation released its proposed rule addressing safety on our roads this month, and the news for bicyclists and pedestrians is not good.  However, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure was front and center in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing examining local perspectives on transportation. Learn more on our blog

Take Two Minutes to Stand Up for the Safety of Our Children

March 24, 2014:  All of us are working hard to make our neighborhoods safer for kids and families to walk to and from school. But now, we need your help to ensure that the health and safety of our loved ones does not take a back seat to automobile passengers, simply because they chose active transportation over driving.  Please take a moment and read more about how you can help.  

State Spending on Safe Routes Slows

March 24, 2014: The final quarterly State of the States report for 2013 shows insignificant changes both in funding announced and funding obligated for Safe Routes to School projects across the nation.  While this is certainly disappointing, it is also not surprising, as it is consistent with annual trends we have observed at the beginning of each fiscal year.  For example: in September 2012, an additional $62,818,641 was obligated over the prior quarter.  However, the final quarterly report in December showed only $14,480,154 in additional dollars obligated.  This marked year-end slowdown has repeated itself in prior years.  With 35% of total funds still unobligated, it will continue to be important that we focus on obligations so that awards result in projects being built and implemented. 

MAP-21 Reauthorization Kicks into High Gear, Maybe

March 4, 2014: With the clock ticking on the few months until the Highway Trust Fund runs out of dollars, both Congress and the Administration are unveiling plans for financing transportation and for reauthorizing the MAP-21 transportation law.  Learn more on our blog.

Stand up for Safe Streets for all

February 10, 2014: Ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor the Safe Streets Act (HR 2468/S2004), which would ensure that state Departments of Transportation and MPOs use complete streets policies and principles when planning federally-funded projects.  It's time we make sure our transportation systems are safe for all users.  Learn more on our blog, and then take action and ask your Senators and Representative to cosponsor the bills today.

Ask your Representative to support new bike/ped financing bill

February 3, 2014: Ask your Representative to cosponsor HR 3978, which would let communities access low-cost loans to build networks of sidewalks, bikes lanes and paths now, and repay the loan over many years.  And, 25% of the loan proceeds must be used in low-income communities--so neighborhoods will benefit, as well as downtowns!  More information is available on our blog, or you can go right to our Congressional action center to contact your Representative now.

Federal transportation policy off to fast start in 2014

January 17, 2014: Read our latest federal policy blog for details about how the new federal spending bills affects transportation programs that benefit bicycling and walking, a recent House hearing showing that transportation policy will be front and center this year in Congress, and new staffing at the US Department of Transportation.

Unveiling our new legislative platform and examining state implementation decisions

January 7, 2014: It’s hard to believe it’s already 2014—and even harder to believe that means that the MAP-21 transportation law is just nine months away from expiring. Check out our latest federal policy blog to learn more about our federal legislative platform, which includes priorities around the Transportation Alternatives program, safety, data collection, health and equity. And, please review our newest update to the Transportation Alternatives state snapshot chart, which details state decisions on the implementation of the Transportation Alternatives program.

While it doesn’t seem all that long since MAP-21 passed, we will need your help this year in making phone calls and emails to Congress at critical junctures, and in inviting members of Congress to join you at Safe Routes to School events. So please stay tuned – we look forward to working with you to make sure 2014 is the year that a transportation bill supportive of Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking is passed.

Enough is enough - ask Congress to end rising rates of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities

November 18, 2013:  Bicyclists and pedestrians now represent 16.3 percent of all traffic deaths, yet states spend just 0.4% of their safety dollars on bicycle and pedestrian safety.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership applauds Sens. Merkley (D-OR), Ayotte (R-NH) and Schatz (D-HI) and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Coble (R-NC), DeFazio (D-OR) and McCaul (R-TX) for introducing legislation (S. 1708 / H.R. 3494) to require USDOT to set a non-motorized safety performance measure.   This is absolutely critical to ensure that every state sets targets for reducing bicycle and pedestrian deaths and uses safety money to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Learn more in our latest blog, and then contact your members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor these bills.  

States start to max out available Safe Routes to School funds

November 7, 2013: The lastest quarterly State of the States report shows that awarded funds are slowing, with just $13 million in new awards made, as more than one-third of the states have spend more than 90 percent of available Safe Routes to School funds and are shifting to the Transportation Alternatives program. On the other end of the scale, nine states have used less than 60 percent of their available funds, meaning there are still areas of the country in which new Safe Routes to School funds could be awarded.   However, it's important to continue to focus on obligation so that awards result in projects being built and implemented. In the last quarter, states obligated $26 million.

Reading the tea leaves for the next transportation bill

November 4, 2013: Congress resolved the government shutdown after two weeks, but only funded the government until January 15, 2014.  Congress is undertaking budget negotiations on how to fund the rest of the fiscal year.  While we’d hoped those negotiations would be broad and include a funding solution for the hole in the highway trust fund, that now seems unlikely.  So, in less than a year, Congress will have to resolve a major funding hurdle to continue funding for surface transportation, including Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking.  In our latest federal policy blog, we read the tea leaves from the budget talks and try to take lessons from a recent water infrastructure bill that passed the House with hugely bipartisan support. 

The Federal Government Shutdown and Transportation Spending

October 8, 2013: The federal government shutdown is in its second week, and our thoughts are turning to what the shutdown means for the reauthorization of MAP-21, which expires a year from now. How the current shutdown is resolved will have implications for what’s possible in the next transportation bill for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking—and whether or not a year from now, we see a similar shutdown in transportation spending. Read our latest federal policy blog for more details.

USDOT plans for the next five years

September 4, 2013: As Congress is in recess for the month of August, Capitol Hill has been quiet since our last update. However, the US Department of Transportation is planning for the future and seeks input on their draft strategic plan for FY2014-2018. Read our latest federal policy blog for more details on our reaction and input, and then take a few moments to visit the USDOT online dialog to provide your own input and vote for other helpful comments.

States continue to use remaining Safe Routes to School funds

August 19, 2013: In our latest quarterly State of the States report, we are pleased to note that states continue to award and obligate their remaining Safe Routes to School funds. Over the past quarter, states allocated $24 million in new awards, leaving $206 million yet to award, and states obligated $50 million.  We encourage you to review the State of the States, and then look at your state's plans for how they will implement Transportation Alternatives specific to Safe Routes to School.

Fending off Congressional Threats to Safe Routes to School Funding

July 30, 2013: It is the House of Representative's turn to work on transportation spending, with action taking place this afternoon and late into the night.  We are concerned that there may be an amendment to damage the Transportation Alternatives program, so will be watching closely.  Please stand ready to call your Representative tomorrow morning - we will let you know if your help is needed.  And check our blog for the latest updates as well. (Note: Both the House and Senate transportation spending bills were pulled from consideration due to lack of votes before any problematic amendments were offered; additional details are in the blog)

Contact your Senators to Save Transportation Alternatives

July 24, 2013: Sen. Paul of Kentucky has introduced an amendment to the transportation appropriations bill that would prohibit any funding from being spent on Transportation Alternatives, and redirect it to bridge repair.  Join us in asking Senators to vote no on this amendment.

Helping MPOs Make Best Use of Transportation Alternatives Funds

July 22, 2013: Under the MAP-21 transportation law, large Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) now receive a portion of the Transportation Alternatives funds, with which they must run a competitive process. Take a look at this new resource from Advocacy Advance in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership to spotlight examples of competitive grant processes that can help inform MPOs seeking to develop Transportation Alternatives competitions. The National Center for Safe Routes to School has also released a white paper summarizing interviews from MPOs about Transportation Alternatives.

Assessing State Progress on Transportation Alternatives

July 12, 2013: One year later, we finally have our first snapshot of what each state plans to do on Transportation Alternatives. Read our blog and look at our brand new state-by-state chart examining TAP implementation decisions to see what your state has done so far. 

Join us for a July webinar on Transportation Alternatives

July 2, 2013: Register for our webinar, "One Year Later: Where We Are on Transportation Alternatives."  It takes place on Monday, July 22 at 2pm EST for one hour.  In this webinar, learn the details of the brand-new guidance issued by the US Department of Transportation on how states must implement the Transportation Alternatives program. And, hear more about the decisions each state has made on how much funding they will dedicate to bicycling and walking and how they will open up those application processes. Finally, learn more about the newest player in this grant program: large Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). We will be unveiling and explaining a new resource of ideas and examples to help MPOs create a high-quality Transportation Alternatives application that will maximize Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects. 

Assessing USDOT's final Transportation Alternatives guidance

June 13, 2013: This week the US Department of Transportation issued the final guidance and an updated Q&A on the Transportation Alternatives program.  Read our analysis of the impacts of the new guidance and learn about forth-coming resources to help you advocate for your state and large MPOs to spend their Transportation Alternatives funds wisely!

Sizing up the Next US Secretary of Transportation

May 29, 2013: Within a few short weeks, we may have a new Secretary of Transportation—Anthony Foxx, the current mayor of Charlotte, NC.  In this month’s federal policy blog, learn more about Mayor Foxx’s transportation priorities based on his work in Charlotte and his recent Senate confirmation hearing.  And, we’ve included our recommendations for steps Secretary Foxx could take in his first 100 days at the US Department of Transportation to advance Safe Routes to School!

States award and obligate remaining Safe Routes to School funds at a brisk clip

May 29, 2013: Our latest State of the States quarterly report shows that states did a good job in the last quarter of awarding and obligating their remaining Safe Routes to School funds. States awarded $43 million in funds, leaving approximately $230 million left nationwide of Safe Routes to School funds, and obligated nearly $34 million.

National Partnership Reaches out to Mayor Anthony Foxx

May 9, 2013: Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte has been tapped to become the new U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has sent a letter to Mayor Foxx congratulating him on all his work to create a walkable and healthy Charlotte, and to invite him to work together to advance Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling once his nomination is approved.

National Partnership Submits Comments to Surgeon General on Walking

April 30, 2013: The Surgeon General plans to issue a call to action on walking next year, and asked for input on the best ways to advance walking and walkability.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted comments documenting the impact of Safe Routes to School and recommending five actions the Surgeon General could take to advance Safe Routes to School and walking.

Understanding the Impacts of the Federal Budget on Safe Routes to School

April 26, 2013: Every spring, the President and Congress start the months-long process of setting spending levels for federal agencies and programs.  In this month’s federal policy blog, learn more about proposed 2014 spending levels for transportation and health programs that affect Safe Routes to School. There is also a short update on implementation of MAP-21, including two state-level successes in Idaho and Michigan.

Rethinking how we talk about Safe Routes to School on the Hill

March 28, 2013: At the National Bike Summit this year, a consultant for the League of American Bicyclists presenting the results of in-depth interviews with Hill supporters and opponents about bicycling and policy.  The findings from that study are applicable to how all of us talk about Safe Routes to School to policymakers at any level. Read more about the study findings and suggestions for Safe Routes to School messaging in this month’s federal policy blog. And put it into practice when talking to your mayors, city councilors and school board members!

The sequester and performance measures

February 28, 2013: You have probably been hearing a lot about the sequester—but what you may not have heard is that Highway Trust Fund programs, including Transportation Alternatives, are mostly exempt from the sequester. We are also actively working to secure a performance measure for bicycle and pedestrian safety.  These performance measures will drive state spending for the foreseeable future, and with bicycle and pedestrian fatalities increasing and states spending next to nothing on bicycle pedestrian safety, it is a critical battle.  Get more on the sequester and performance measures in this month’s federal policy blog.

State obligations slow for the first quarter of FY13

February 15, 2013: Award and obligations for Safe Routes to School followed a common trend, in which the first quarter of a fiscal year shows a slowdown.  For the first quarter of FY2013, states awarded $12.7 million in Safe Routes to School funding and obligated $14.5 million.  While the numbers were low, two-thirds of states did obligate funds, showing continued progress.

Putting safety at the forefront of Transportation Alternatives

January 14, 2013: Read our latest blog about how to make the case to your state department of transportation to supplement Transportation Alternatives with funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to protect Safe Routes to School funding.

FHWA releases full funding charts for Transportation Alternatives

January 11, 2013: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has released the full funding tables for all transportation programs, including Transportation Alternatives.  Now, any of the larger metropolitan areas that can run grant competitions under Transportation Alternatives can see exactly how much funding they will receive. Advocates should make sure they are reaching out to their metropolitan planning organizations to discuss their plans for the Transportation Alternatives competition. The other major item we are waiting on from FHWA is the final guidance for Transportation Alternatives and the sample application best practices. 

Summing up 2012 and Looking to 2013

January 2, 2013: After years of delay, in June 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21.  This legislation made significant changes to funding for bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School. The federal Safe Routes to School program, which existed from 2005 to 2012, has now been combined with other bicycling and walking programs into a new program called Transportation Alternatives. There is less funding available for Transportation Alternatives than for the programs that were consolidated, and there is no longer dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School. This leaves each state Department of Transportation with discretion about whether to fund Safe Routes to School projects, and how much funding to dedicate to these initiatives.  In addition, the Metropolitan Planning Organizations for larger cities (population of 200,000 or more) will also receive funding through Transportation Alternatives that they can provide for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects. You can read more about MAP-21 in our MAP-21 Resource Center, and if you want to learn the details in how the law came about, please visit our legislative news archives.

This is clearly a new day for Safe Routes to School.  Action now shifts to the states, which will be making decisions about funding levels and processes.  We are working closely with our colleagues at Advocacy Advance to track each state's decisions and to support state-by-state campaigns, but we need your help too. We urge all Safe Routes to School advocates to join your state's campaign to fully fund Transportation Alternatives.  To do so, contact the campaign lead for your state

In addition, the US Department of Transportation has a critical role to play in interpreting MAP-21.  We expect final guidance on Transportation Alternatives to be issued soon, and rules and regulations will be issued over the coming months that affect regulatory burden, the ability of bicycling and walking projects to compete for safety funds, and overall performance measures. We continue to work with the USDOT to make them aware of the needs of Safe Routes to School supporters.

Finally, Congress is about to start a new legislative session.  A new session means newly elected Members of Congress, new Committee assignments and a fresh start on all legislation.  In the coming months we will be educating these Members of Congress about the importance of Safe Routes to School, the impact of MAP-21 on Safe Routes to School initiatives, and improvements we'd like to see when MAP-21 is reauthorized.  Stay tuned for more information.

We will continue to provide updates here and on our blog as progress is made in Congress, with USDOT, and in the states.  Welcome to 2013!


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