2011 Legislative Archives

This page includes archives of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership's legislative actions in 2011.  Since this is a historical archive, links may not work.  Current information on our legislative priorities is available on our National webpage. You may also visit our legislative archives by year:  2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008-2007.

Legislative Archives 2011

Senate Commerce Committee Sides with Safe Streets for All

December 14, 2011
As part of the Senate’s efforts to move a transportation bill forward, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation considered several transportation bills. During the committee consideration, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) offered an amendment on safety for motorized and non-motorized users. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) suggested a change to the amendment, which was accepted. The new language directs the US DOT to set standards to ensure safe accommodation for motorized and nonmotorized users in road projects. This means safer roads for everyone, including those who walk, bicycle, ride transit or drive cars. Thanks to all of you who took action and contacted your Senators in support of this amendment. This bill will ultimately be combined with other transportation bills, including MAP-21, before it goes to the Senate floor.

Action on Transportation Bill Pushed Till Early Next Year

December 7, 2011
With time dwindling before the holiday break and a bundle of legislative disputes on funding, unemployment benefits and tax provisions still to resolve, further action on the transportation bill in the House and Senate will have to wait until next year. Early next year will be a critical time for transportation and the future of Safe Routes to School funding.

In the Senate, we continue to have conversations with supportive Senators about ways to address the challenges in the Senate transportation bill, and are preparing for a battle on the floor in February or March, in which we will need 60 votes to pass an amendment.

In the House, up until early December it looked like they would move forward with a five-year surface transportation bill, paid for by revenues from expanded drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, Chairman Mica (R-FL) announced that there was not enough time left before the holidays to move forward, and that the bill was being pushed back to January or February. While we still do not know the specifics on the House bill, we are preparing for Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking funding to simply be eligible for federal transportation dollars, without any dedicated funding. It is likely we will also need to pursue an amendment strategy in the House as well.

Senate Committee Moves Transportation Bill Forward

November 14, 2011
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed its proposal for the next Federal transportation program out of the Committee on November 9. The proposed legislation makes significant changes to the core funding programs for bicycling and walking activities. In addition to the joint statement we released with the America Bikes coalition in response to the draft, we have an additional update on what happened in the Committee. We continue to work closely with Committee staff and members to make specific improvements to the bill. Check back soon for an updated analysis of the bill. 

Senate transportation bill moving forward

November 8, 2011
Late on Friday, November 4, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released their draft surface transportation bill. The bill is called “MAP-21: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.” We appreciate the continued inclusion of funding opportunities for bicycling and walking in MAP-21, but are concerned about a number of provisions in the draft legislation. Please see our joint statement with the America Bikes coalition for additional details.

We are working closely with the leadership and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to make specific improvements in the bill. We are focused on restoring dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking and on removing the opt-out clause. As a bipartisan group of Senators have voted three times in the past two months to sustain bicycle and pedestrian funding, we are hopeful that these issues will be resolved. The Environment and Public Works Committee is considering the bill on Wednesday, November 9 and there will be amendments on the bicycling and walking provisions. We hope to be able to improve the language over the coming weeks before the legislation moves to the full Senate for consideration, and will post an update shortly with more details.

In addition, Speaker of the House Boehner recently announced that the House will be taking up their transportation bill in December. Look for more news soon about the House provisions.

As this process moves forward in both the Senate and the House, we will let you know when it is time to take action and ask your Senators and Representatives to support Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking funding. By standing together, we will ensure continued support for Safe Routes to School and bicycle and pedestrian projects, which create jobs, increase physical activity, improve safety and benefit the environment.

New Safe Routes to School 2011 Policy report

October 12, 2011
We are pleased to release a new report, Safe Routes to School: Helping Communities Save Lives and Dollars, that demonstrates the long-term financial benefits of Safe Routes to School investments—critical in these challenging economic times. The report shares new data, dollar figures and facts about the wide-ranging benefits of the federal Safe Routes to School program, and illustrates them with potent local success stories. Benefits include:

  • Reducing school busing costs, alleviating the strain on school and local government budgets;
  • Decreasing short trips to school, easing traffic congestion, fuel expenditures and wear and tear on the roads;
  • Helping small rural towns and low-income communities access much-needed funds to improve safety; and
  • Lowering medical costs from traffic injuries and fatalities and manage obesity costs.

Also available is a new fact sheet with excerpts from the report you can download and use to help make the case for Safe Routes to School.

One battle on Transportation Enhancements won but more are likely

October 12, 2011
In September, efforts to cut Transportation Enhancements were pushed back, and the transportation bill was extended through March 2011. While this is good news, we are on notice that this will be an ongoing fight. House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and Leader Cantor (R-VA) have called Transportation Enhancements a job-killing regulation. Sen. Paul (R-KY) has called for redirecting Transportation Enhancements funding to a fund to do emergency bridge repairs. While this may sound disheartening, the battle over Sen. Coburn’s attempt to strip Transportation Enhancements shows that these programs have strong advocates and defenders in Congress. Please know that the Safe Routes to School National Partnership continues to advocate for Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails in the halls of Congress, is working with many other partners and will keep up the fight.

House leadership okays larger transportation bill

October 12, 2011
In one piece of hopeful news, Rep. Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, announced that he has the go-ahead from House leadership to find additional funding. Chairman Mica had released an outline of a transportation bill that would have included funding cuts of approximately 35 percent. Now, Chairman Mica can work with House leaders to identify $75-95 billion, which would allow for a six-year transportation bill at current spending levels. Should additional revenue be found, this gives us an opportunity to renew our push for bicycling and walking programs including Safe Routes to School.

US DOT leadership participate in Walk to School Day

October 5, 2011
US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez walked to school with children from Anne Beers Elementary in Washington, DC. Secretary LaHood used the occasion to blog about his support for Safe Routes to School.

EPA releases new voluntary school siting guidelines

October 3, 2011
This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its long-awaited School Siting Guidelines. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership participated on a Task Force that helped review and shape the guidelines, and we are proud to circulate the final product to the Safe Routes to School community. These guidelines will be an important resource to communities across the country as they look to renovate or build schools. For the first time, the guidelines clearly lay out how school systems should look at the positive aspects of a school site (such as its proximity to students, walkability, and proximity to parks, libraries and other community assets) as well as environmental hazards.

CDC announces recipients of funding to create healthy communities

September 30, 2011
We are pleased to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced the 61 community and state recipients of the Community Transformation Grants. With the $103 million in funding, all 61 grantees must work on improving health in several priority areas, including active living and healthy eating. Take a look and see if a community near you has been funded—this could provide an opportunity to weave Safe Routes to School into the grant implementation and make real change in our communities.

Transportation Enhancements is Saved in the Extension

September 19, 2011
Last week, the bicycling and walking community generated more than 50,000 emails plus thousands of phone calls to all U.S. Senators to defend the Transportation Enhancements program against Sen. Coburn’s (R-OK) threat to strip it in the transportation extension. The support that bicycle and pedestrian advocates showed to the Senate was critical in ensuring that Senators stood strong against Sen. Coburn’s demands. And, late last week, Sen. Coburn withdrew his proposed amendment and allowed the surface transportation extension to move forward. Now, all current surface transportation programs (including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails) are continued at current funding levels until March 31, 2012.

The extension now gives Congress six months to keep working on passing a long-term transportation reauthorization bill. It is clear that we will have to fight this battle to defend bicycle and pedestrian funding again. However, we are fortunate that Sen. Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over transportation, publicly stated that Transportation Enhancements will be included in the reauthorization with some additional flexibility provided to states, and that there will be dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. Californians should thank Sen. Boxer for her leadership.

Sen. Coburn Threatens Transportation Enhancements

September 13, 2011
In the next few days, Senator Coburn (R-OK) is expected to try and hold up the extension of the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill unless Congress eliminates funding for the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. For twenty years, Transportation Enhancements has been the primary funding source for sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, trails and more. Sen. Coburn is threatening to let tens of billions of transportation spending expire after September 30 (the current expiration of SAFETEA-LU) over the small amount that bicycling and walking receives.

If Sen. Coburn were to succeed, it would mean an immediate end to funding for Transportation Enhancements. It would also mean that our chances of sustaining any funding for bicycling and walking (including for Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails) in the long-term reauthorization bill would be more difficult. Advocates are urged to take two minutes to contact your Senators today to urge them to vote against the Coburn amendment and sustain dedicated funding for Transportation Enhancements.

September is a critical month for transportation

September 7, 2011
Another transportation extension and the continuation of the federal gas tax will need to be passed this month for transportation spending to continue flowing past the September 30 expiration. In remarks in late August, President Obama called upon Congress to pass a “clean extension” (i.e. extending spending levels as-is, without policy changes) to the transportation bill so that transportation jobs can continue. The US Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the US Conference of Mayors have all echoed the President’s call. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) is expected to consider its extension on September 8. Senator Boxer (D-CA), who chairs EPW, has been tying the extension to jobs in every state. Rep. Mica (R-FL), who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, has indicated that he will support one more extension to the transportation bill. While it is positive that key leaders are moving towards an extension, Sen. Coburn (R-OK) has threatened that he will try to block the extension unless Transportation Enhancements is removed. Should Sen. Coburn carry out his threat, we could be facing a Senate vote on eliminating funding for bicycling and walking. We will keep you posted and will put out a call to action if this threat materializes.

In addition to wrangling over the extension, we are likely to see increased pressure to move forward on a longer-term transportation reauthorization. President Obama is addressing Congress on September 8 to discuss job creation; it is widely expected that he will include a push on infrastructure spending. A recent national study found that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects crease more jobs per mission dollars spent than road repair and construction projects. The President’s speech could prompt the House or Senate to move forward on consideration of their full transportation bills yet this month as well.

With so many decisions being made this month, now is the time to make sure your Congressional delegations knows why Safe Routes to School is important to your community. Please make time to do your part and speak up for Safe Routes to School and invite your Members of Congress to your Walk to School day events!

SRTSNP Challenges You to Engage Congress

August 15, 2011

Congress is battling over spending levels—and some say that we can’t afford Safe Routes to School. Advocates know the safety, health, and traffic benefits that come from Safe Routes to School. We challenge you to contact Congress, to get local supporters to contact Congress, and to invite Members to your Walk to School day and groundbreaking events. See our handy flyer for more information about how you can do your part to sustain Safe Routes to School funding.

Senate holds hearing, releases transportation outline

August 10, 2011
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a short outline of its transportation bill, which is called Moving Ahead for the 21st Century (MAP-21). The Senate approach is for a two-year transportation bill, at current funding levels. While the outline does not mention bicycling and walking, at a July 21 hearing on the outline, Chairman Boxer (D-CA) indicated that Safe Routes to School, “bike paths” and “recreational trails” are included in MAP-21. This is promising news—but we need to see the details before we know that the integrity of Safe Routes to School is maintained, that these projects won’t be competing against expensive highway projects and that the funding level is sufficient.

Because the federal gas tax is no longer enough to fund current transportation spending levels, the proposed Senate bill would require an infusion of approximately $12 billion. Right before Congress left for the August recess, news reports indicated that Sen. Baucus (D-MT) has identified a funding source to fill the $12 billion gap. If reports are accurate, and the funding source is acceptable to Republicans, this could help jumpstart consideration of the Senate transportation bill in September. Because Congress will be spending much of the fall working on major spending cuts related to the debt limit deal, a transportation bill must move in early fall or risk getting caught up in the larger debt debate.

House presses for six-year bill

August 10, 2011
In the House, there was no further movement on the transportation bill subsequent to the early July unveiling of the 20-page summary of the House draft. Chairman Mica (R-FL) spent much of his time in July wrangling with the Senate over extending the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Much like the surface transportation bill, the FAA has been extended repeatedly over several years. Because Congress could not come to agreement on another extension, the FAA shut down for nearly two weeks before an emergency extension was passed. Rep. Mica has indicated he will play hardball with the surface transportation bill and extension as well. With the current surface transportation extension plus the bulk of the federal gas tax expiring on September 30, it does raise concerns about prospects for an extension. If Congress does not come to agreement either on a long-term transportation bill or another extension by September 30, it would shut down the flow of funds to state departments of transportation for a wide range of transportation programs, including Safe Routes to School.

Outline of House transportation draft unveiled

July 14, 2011
Last week, Chairman Mica (R-FL) of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee released a 20 page summary of his transportation bill at a press conference. While the summary is broad, between the summary and Chairman Mica’s remarks at the press conference, it is clear that it is not favorable to Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking. According to the summary:

  • The overall six-year funding level for the bill would be $230 billion, which is approximately a 20 percent cut from SAFETEA-LU and a 34 percent cut from current funding levels.
  • There would no longer be dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. These projects would be eligible if states chose to fund them, but the outline indicates that this “flexibility will not be unchecked” by holding states accountable to performance measures. This will likely further discourage states from spending money on bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs.
  • The outline repeatedly highlights its focus on the highway system and projects of regional or national significance and indicates that approximately 70 surface transportation programs that are “duplicative or do not serve a federal purpose” would be eliminated or consolidated.
  • All in all, the overall effect is that dedicated federal funding for Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails is eliminated in the House outline. We hope that Safe Routes to School retains specific eligibility, but it is possible that more general bicycling and walking activities will be what retain specific eligibility. Given the shrinking size of the overall funding and the lack of any funding requirements for Safe Routes to School, the likely result of the House outline is that state DOTs would spend very little (if anything) on bicycling and walking.

It is important to remember that there are many steps remaining in the legislative process, allowing us an opportunity to influence language. Please contact your Members of Congress to ask for their support of Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking.

Sen. Inhofe prioritizes eliminating bike/ped funding

July 14, 2011
To offset the House proposal to eliminate key programs, it is critical that any Senate transportation draft maintain Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails. Unfortunately, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate “frivolous spending for bike trails”. This is in direct conflict with Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) commitment to maintain dedicated funding for bicycling and walking. However, because the Senate is working towards a bi-partisan solution, Senator Inhofe’s comments mean funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs is at risk of total elimination. Please contact your Senators to ask for their support of Safe Routes to School and bicycling and walking.

Key Lawmakers Acting to End Dedicated Funding for Bicycling and Walking!

July 11, 2011
House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced on July 7 that his transportation bill will eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourage states from choosing to spend their dollars on these activities that are “not in the federal interest.” In the Senate, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate ‘frivolous spending for bike trails.’ Read on for more details and to take action today!

New National Prevention Strategy Includes Safe Routes to School

July 8, 2011
In June, the National Prevention Council released the National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness. The National Prevention Strategy was authorized by the Affordable Care Act to help transform our health care system from a focus on sickness and disease to one that is focused on prevention and wellness. Safe Routes to School is highlighted on p. 39. The document also touches on the concepts of school siting, shared use and Complete Streets and their impact on physical activity levels. The importance of this strategy is demonstrated by the new obesity data included in the report F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011.

Key Lawmakers Acting to End Dedicated Funding for Bicycling and Walking!

July 7, 2011
House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced on July 7 that his transportation bill will eliminate dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, including Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program, and discourage states from choosing to spend their dollars on these activities that are “not in the federal interest.” In the Senate, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate ‘frivolous spending for bike trails.’ Read on for more details and to take action today!

Signs of progress on the transportation bill, but no draft yet

June 15, 2011
Over the past month, there have been rumblings that a draft House or Senate transportation bill would be released very soon. At this point, it seems that the House bill will not be released until early July. A Senate bill could possibly come within the next week. While we are still in a holding pattern, there have been signs of movement in the past month:

  • In late May, the leadership of EPW released a joint press release announcing core principles for a transportation bill.
  • That same day, Sen. Boxer held a press conference on the transportation bill. In response to a question from the StreetsBlog Capitol Hill reporter, Sen. Boxer indicated there will be dedicated funding for bicycling and walking but that there is not yet an agreement among the EPW leaders on that issue.
  • The lead EPW Republican, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), later told a local paper that he does not agree that bicycling and walking should be funded in the transportation bill.
  • We are working with other national organizations to ensure that other EPW Senators are asked by constituents to support bicycling and walking funding.
  • We have just added Sens. Casey (D-PA), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lautenberg (D-NJ) as new cosponsors to S. 800, the Safe Routes to School bill. Now, all eight of the non-leadership Democrats on EPW are official supporters of Safe Routes to School, which ensures we have advocates for Safe Routes to School during transportation negotiations.

California constituents call on Boxer to protect bike/ped funding

June 14, 2011
In California, we called on people and organizations to ask Sen. Boxer (D-CA) to preserve the Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails programs. As chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), Sen. Boxer is absolutely key to protecting these programs. Californians responded in force - we estimate that Sen. Boxer heard from many thousands of constituents within a few days. Ninety California-based organizations also signed a letter to Senator Boxer supporting bicycling and walking funding.

Federal transportation bill coming soon?

May 18, 2011
Over the last month, there have been many rumors that House and Senate transportation bill drafts were imminent. It is now looking like it may be June before either Committee releases their transportation drafts. We are very concerned that the House bill in particular will be detrimental to bicycling and walking funding, given remarks made by House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica to a local paper indicating that he may not dedicate funding for bicycling and walking. This makes any Senate transportation bill even more important. We have been working with a number of other transportation groups to ask Californians to encourage Senator Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to stand strong against any attempts to strip funding for bicycling and walking in transportation bills. Other national transportation policy news includes:

  • We have added Sens. Stabenow (D-MI) and Whitehouse (D-RI) to S.800, the Safe Routes to School bill. That brings us to 14 Senators in support. Please continue to contact your Senators to ask them to sign on!
  • Reps. Matsui (D-CA) and LaTourette (R-OH) introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act (HR 1780) to require states and regions to adopt Complete Streets policies.
  • The US Conference of Mayors just released a poll of mayors about transportation. Notably, 75% of mayors say they would support an increase in the gas tax if more funding was directed to bicycling and walking.

States moving forward on utilizing SRTS funds

May 17, 2011
The new State of the States for the first quarter of 2011 shows that states are keeping pace with newly available funding—states awarded another $36 million and obligated $40 million in funding in the last quarter.

CDC releases application for new “Community Transformation Grants”

May 13, 2011
Through the new Community Transformation Grants (CTG), the CDC will award approximately $102 million to 75 communities to support policy change in several areas, including physical activity. These grants are modeled after the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grants, which have helped many communities jumpstart their built environment work. Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets, and increasing walking and bicycling are specifically mentioned as “CDC recommended evidence- and practice-based strategies.” Additional information is available on the CDC’s CTG website. Letters of intent are due June 6, 2011 and the full application is due July 15, 2011. We encourage communities across the country to take a look at this funding opportunity and consider applying to increase opportunities for physical activity. Some ideas of what your community could consider applying for are included in a document we prepared when the CPPW grants were being considered.

AASHTO releases guide for state implementation of SRTS

May 12, 2011
AASHTO has released a new Safe Routes to School Noteworthy Practices Guide. This guide is intended to be a resource for state DOT Safe Routes to School coordinators looking for models for implementation of their program. While it is not intended as a resource for advocates, it can provide insight into the different ways in which states have set up their SRTS programs.

Tell your Governor not to return bike/ped funding to Washington

April 20, 2011
The FY2011 appropriations deal requires state DOTs to return $2.5 billion in transportation funding to Washington. Based on past "rescissions" like this, many state DOTs will take most of the cuts from bike/ped programs. While Safe Routes to School is not eligible for these rescissions, it could devastate Transportation Enhancements. Contact your Governor and ask them to minimize rescission cuts on programs that fund sidewalks, bike lanes, trails and education programs. Take action today!

Sign your organization on to a CDC built environment funding letter

April 20, 2011
The President’s proposed FY12 budget would eliminate funding for built environment activities and the Healthy Communities program at the CDC. These two programs total just $25 million and provide critical funding sources that promote health and reduce obesity in communities across the country. Local, state and national organizations are being asked to join a sign-on letter to Congressional leaders to ask for continued funding for these two important programs. To sign on to the letter, please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FTQJJZN and fill out your organization’s information no later than May 3, 2011.

Partners pitch in for Safe Routes to School

April 12, 2011
In this difficult legislative environment, we are focusing on preserving and strengthening the Safe Routes to School program. We are grateful to our partners and supporters for their help, including:

  • On April 12, hundreds of advocates for the American Heart Association blanketed Capitol Hill to ask Members of Congress to support legislation that helps kids and families be healthy. One of their asks was to support Safe Routes to School - we are grateful to AHA, which is a steering committee member, for their active support for Safe Routes to School.
  • John Burke, the CEO of Trek Bikes, testified before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on March 30, 2011. The Committee was seeking input on the next transportation bill. Mr. Burke made the case for how federal investments in bicycling and walking help spur economic benefits. He included a request to sustain the federal Safe Routes to School program.

Senate Legislation Aims to Sustain Safe Routes to School

April 12, 2011

Today, twelve Senators—led by Senators Harkin (D-IA), Sanders (D-VT), and Merkley (D-OR)—introduced legislation (S. 800) to sustain and strengthen the federal Safe Routes to School program. It’s a tough environment in Congress these days with so much attention on cutting spending—so this legislation helps send a strong message that the federal Safe Routes to School program should be preserved. Learn more about the legislation and contact your Senators to ask them to cosponsor the bill!

Congress reaches FY11 spending deal; moves on to FY12 budget

April 11, 2011
The last several weeks have been difficult ones as Congress worked to finalize spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. At the last hour on Friday, April 8, the President and Congress reached a spending deal, averting a shutdown of the federal government. The House and Senate approved the legislation this week. With FY11 appropriations now complete, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed a FY2012 budget outline that would significantly scale back spending. He calls for consolidating transportation programs and cutting transportation spending so that no gas tax increase is required. Similarly, Rep. Mica (R-FL), chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, has also indicated that the transportation bill will need to be no larger than what can be supported with the current gas tax, which means less funding that was in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU transportation bill.

Partnership submits comments to USDOT

March 24, 2011
The US Department of Transportation is reviewing its existing rules and regulations and has asked for public comment on opportunities to make its processes more efficient and less burdensome. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted comments on ways that USDOT could reduce regulatory burden and implementation delays with the Safe Routes to School program.

Advocates influence the transportation bill in Washington and at home

March 17, 2011
Congress has extended the current SAFETEA-LU bill until September 30, 2011—meaning that all current programs, including Safe Routes to School, are funded through the remainder of the fiscal year. Leaders in the House and Senate have indicated that they are working hard to complete a new transportation bill before that extension runs out. Fortunately, advocates from around the country who support Safe Routes to School have stepped forward to share their views with Congress. We have been coordinating with the national groups through the America Bikes coalition on several initiatives:

  • In-district meetings: Our thanks go to Safe Routes to School advocates in two dozen districts who are tirelessly working to attend and schedule local meetings with their Members of Congress. These meeting coordinators are assembling diverse local teams—including parents, school officials, law enforcement, health practitioners and city officials—to speak about the local benefits of Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements with respect to safety, economics and health.
  • Field hearings: Chairman Mica of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee scheduled a series of field hearings around the country on the surface transportation bill. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership was able to submit testimony for the Los Angeles field hearing. We are also grateful to many of our state partner affiliates that attended the hearings, spoke with Members of Congress, and submitted statements in support of Safe Routes to School and bicycling/walking.
  • National Bike Summit: More than 750 of people from around the country descended on Washington, DC at the perfect time to affect the transportation debate. These advocates collectively met with more than 400 Members of Congress and asked Members to support continued, dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and Recreational Trails. We are very thankful for the League of American Bicyclists’ leadership in organizing the summit and ensuring that Safe Routes to School was a key part of the ask for advocates.

Executive Director of Let’s Move Shares Her SRTS Story

March 9, 2011
If you need any inspiration about how Safe Routes to School can create champions, please take a moment to listen to Robin Schepper, the Executive Director of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, about how the simple effort of getting a bike rack for her children’s school led to bigger efforts with Safe Routes to School and childhood obesity. With the help of advocates like Robin around the country, we can be successful in sustaining Safe Routes to School.

National Partnership submits Congressional testimony on SRTS

February 20, 2011
The House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are holding a joint hearing on February 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has submitted testimony for the record on the benefits of Safe Routes to School, and encouraging the Committees to sustain dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School in the next transportation bill.

Spending battle in the House

February 16, 2011
The House is moving forward this week to settle funding levels for the current fiscal year (through September 30, 2011) and to extend the current transportation bill:

  • Transportation extension: The current SAFETEA-LU transportation bill extension expires March 4, 2011. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation that would extend all transportation programs until September 30, 2011. We will keep everyone posted on the progress.
  • Appropriations: This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation (called a continuing resolution or CR) governing federal spending for the rest of FY2011. The legislation cuts spending $60 billion below FY2010 levels. Fortunately, Safe Routes to School and bicycling/walking programs were not subject to cuts either in the CR or in any of the 500+ amendments up for consideration. After this week, the CR moves to the Senate, but it is expected to be difficult for the House and Senate to agree on spending cuts—so we may see continuing battles over spending levels.

President’s budget includes transportation proposal

February 16, 2011
This week, the President released his proposed FY2012 budget, including the Administration’s proposal for a new surface transportation bill. The proposal calls for an investment of $556 billion in transportation—nearly double the SAFETEA-LU funding level—and a consolidation of 55 transportation programs into five programs. The Safe Routes to School program and four other programs are combined into a proposed new livability grant program totaling $4.1 billion in FY2012. We are working with the Administration on the details of their proposal to make sure SRTS is well-represented. Should this proposal become law, it makes SRTS projects eligible for a much larger pot of funding, but state and local advocates would need to work together to ensure that SRTS projects are prioritized by state DOTs in spending livability funding. This proposal will be the subject of much debate in Congress; the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are expected to release their draft transportation bills this spring.

House to hold transportation hearings and listening sessions

February 15, 2011
Chairman Mica (R-FL) of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will be holding a series of listening sessions around the country from February 14-25. Locations have been released, but the formats will vary. Some will be invitation-only, while some will be hearings open to the public.

New transportation poll released

February 14, 2011
The Rockefeller Foundation has released the results of a bipartisan poll on transportation of American voters. Two out of three respondents said investing in infrastructure is very important. And, one of the top goal of voters—with 57% of respondents—was “safer streets for our communities and children.” This shows that the goals of the Safe Routes to School program resonate with voters.

HHS announce forthcoming funding for prevention

February 11, 2011
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced how it will allocate the 2011 prevention dollars made available through the Affordable Care Act (health reform). Of the $750 million available for 2011, $222 million will be used to support Community Transformation Grants. These grants will be modeled after the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grants, which funded communities to make policy, systems and environmental changes around obesity prevention and tobacco cessation. Grant applications are not yet available; we’ll keep everyone posted.

States continue to award available Safe Routes to School funds

February 10, 2011
Each quarter, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership issues a “State of the States” to track state-by-state implementation of federal Safe Routes to School funds. The newly available fourth quarter 2010 report shows that states have announced a total of $582 million in funding. During this quarter, states announced $30 million in new awards to local communities, double the rate in the prior quarter. While the piecemeal flow of FY2011 funding has made it difficult for many states to hold new application cycles, it is important that states use as much of available funds as possible, and continue to focus on obligating funds so that projects can be built and implemented promptly. Information for each state is included in the report, so take a look and see how your state DOT is doing.

Partnership Provides Recommendations to EPA on Voluntary School Siting Guidelines

January 28, 2011
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled a draft of voluntary guidelines for siting schools. School siting is important to Safe Routes to School as the choice of school location affects the distance to school and the likelihood that children will walk or bicycle to school. The percentage of children who live within a mile of school has dropped from 41% in 1969 to 31% in 2009. The draft guidelines include language recommending that states and local communities examine the positive health and environmental benefits of locating a site near the children they serve and ensuring safe routes for children to walk and bicycle to school. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership participated on the school siting task group that provided input during the development of the guidelines. In addition, we have provided detailed comments supporting the EPA’s focus on “healthy school siting” and made recommendations for how this aspect can be further strengthened.

National Partnership mobilizing to head off potential threats to Safe Routes to School

January 19, 2011
Last week, the new Congress convened, switching control of the House to Republicans. House leaders have indicated they will be focusing heavily on cutting back federal spending. Given Rep. Cantor’s attempt last summer to cut Safe Routes to School funding, there is a real threat that the House could try to eliminate Safe Routes to School funding or Transportation Enhancements through either the appropriations process or the next transportation bill.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership takes these potential threats seriously and we are mobilizing to prevent them. We are revamping our messaging to show how cuts to Safe Routes to School will impact children’s safety, busing costs, traffic congestion and physical activity. We are partnering with America Bikes’ organizations to hold more than 170 in-district meetings to discuss the benefits of bicycling and walking and to ask for support of Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements. And, we are continuing to meet with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to determine the best legislative strategy. It is important to keep in mind that any cuts the House proposes must also be agreed upon by the Senate and Administration, which have demonstrated support for Safe Routes to School in the past.

We have a strong fight ahead, but we have good allies in Congress and in the field, and a solid foundation of support to build upon. However - our most important ally in this Congress is you. Safe Routes to School advocates must be prepared to get involved and contact Congress as threats arise. We will certainly need your help in the coming months. So, please keep an eye on your email for any calls to action - and when they come, respond quickly and encourage other friends and supporters to respond too. With your help, this is a fight we can win.

Transportation bill extended; new House rules could impact spending

January 15, 2011
In late December, Congress passed an extension to the surface transportation bill until March 4, 2011, likely meaning the transportation bill will have to be extended again. Starting with this extension, the federal Safe Routes to School program will get a small funding bump as it will be included in the distributions of funds that were originally dedicated to now-completed high-priority projects (i.e. earmarked projects). In addition, in January, the House passed new operating rules that now allow transportation spending to be cut through the annual appropriations process. In the past, appropriators (who set spending levels) were not allowed to reduce spending below the levels provided in the surface transportation bill. This rules change indicates that transportation spending could be subject to cuts, particularly when spending exceeds the funds generated through the federal gas tax.