Federal Agency Actions

In addition to our legislative work, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership interacts with various federal agencies that impact Safe Routes to School in some way.  We provide comments on rules and reports to ensure that the Safe Routes to School perspective is represented. This can include transportation implementation issues, school siting, childhood obesity and more.

Below you will find a listing of our interactions with these federal agencies.  In addition, you can review our reports on each state Department of Transportation's progress in implementing their state’s Safe Routes to School program

Latest News and Information:

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.

National Partnership Weighs in on Regulatory Process

April 25, 2013: As part of the implementation of MAP-21, the US DOT asked for input on its proposed rule on categorical exclusions to the environmental review process.  We submitted comments on how these rules could expedite Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects.  

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.

What's Next at the Federal Level for MAP-21

December 3, 2012: While interim guidance was issued by the US Department of Transportation in October, there are still many implementation tasks remaining on MAP-21. Final guidance, rules, regulations, best practices for applications and performance measures all must be issued, and will affect how your state implements Safe Routes to School.  Learn more about next steps on federal implementation in our latest blog post

Commenting on new physical activity report

December 2, 2012: The US Department of Health and Human Services has issued a draft report summarizing the evidence around initiatives to increase physical activity for youth.  Three of the 12 initiatives studied related to Safe Routes to School and the built environment, and all three were found to have enough evidence to pursue implementation.  This confirms what we have seen as Safe Routes to School is implemented.  We have submitted comments to HHS on ways to further strengthen the report's treatment of Safe Routes to School.

Advocating for performance measures

November 5, 2012: The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has signed on to a letter to the US Department of Transportation to advocate for performance measures that incorporate all modes of transportation.  USDOT has another year before it is required to set performance measures, although they are already assessing options.

Federal guidance on Transportation Alternatives Released

October 22, 2012: Today, the US Department of Transportation released the new interim guidance on Transportation Alternatives, which provides states with additional information on how to implement the program.  Unfortunately, the guidance rules that Safe Routes to School projects will now require a 20 percent local match when funded under Transportation Alternatives.  On the positive side, leftover Safe Routes to School funds can still fund projects at 100% of their costs, and Safe Routes to School coordinators can be paid from Transportation Alternatives funding.  Read our blog for the full details.

National groups weigh in on Transportation Alternatives guidance

September 21, 2012: The US Department of Transportation is in the home stretch on issuing its interpretation and guidance on how states can implement the Transportation Alternatives portion of MAP-21. We worked with America Bikes to coordinate a national sign-on letter to USDOT on critical guidance issues, including the Safe Routes to School coordinators and match.

National Partnership submits policy recommendations to Institute of Medicine

September 18, 2012: The Institute of Medicine has created a committee to develop recommendations on making schools a focal point for reducing obesity and making physical activity a part of daily life.  The National Partnership has submitted recommendations specific to Safe Routes to School to the Committee.

Partnership submits comments to EPA

April 19, 2012
The Environmental Protection Agency has requested public comment on their draft State Environmental Health guidelines.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has submitted comments recommending strengthening the guideline's linkages to Safe Routes to School and school siting as a means of reducing children's exposure to traffic pollutants.

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.

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.

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.

Partnership Encourages DOT’s RITA to Prioritize Research on SRTS

January 28, 2010
The US Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) has requested public comment on the development of their 2010-2015 strategic planning initiative. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted comments encouraging RITA to conduct research on a range of Safe Routes to School topics that will help spur additional investment in Safe Routes to School and get more children walking and bicycling to school.

Partnership Submits Comments to NHTSA

December 23, 2009
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has requested public comment on the development of their 2010-2015 Strategic Plan. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted comments encouraging NHTSA to strengthen their focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety, including children.

Making the Most of Non-Infrastructure Safe Routes to School Funds Policy Paper

November 4, 2009
The Partnership finalized a non-infrastructure white paper in November 2009 - Making the Most of Non-Infrastructure Safe Routes to School Funds. In many states, applications for non-infrastructure funding have been low or of poor quality, but non-infrastructure programs are a critical element of making SRTS succeed. The federally-funded SRTS program requires that at least 10% of a state’s SRTS funding and at most 30% of the funding be spent on non-infrastructure activities throughout the state. With additional statewide leadership to provide outreach, training, and material resources related to education, encouragement, and enforcement, more local communities will apply for funding for comprehensive programs. This paper includes examples of various programs and approaches states are using to help increase the number and quality of non-infrastructure programs, which will also lead toward more walking and bicycling to school in a safe manner, goals of the federal program.

Non-infrastructure elements of SRTS programs are cost-effective and important for achieving the goals of the program. There is a great need to have states and practitioners share more information about successful SRTS non-infrastructure strategies that are already in place.

Serving Students with Disabilities Through Safe Routes to School Programs Position Paper

November 4, 2009
The Partnership created the Serving Students with Disabilities Through Safe Routes to School Programs position paper to apprise Congress, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Center for Safe Routes to School (the Clearinghouse) on recommended strategies for meeting the stated goal in section 1404 of SAFETEA-LU for serving students with disabilities through Safe Routes to School programs. The position paper is organized to address the background and need of serving students with disabilities, challenges and benefits, and four recommendations which focus on training and curricula; outreach to parents and students; pilot programs; and evaluation of the inclusion efforts for students with disabilities in Safe Routes to School programs. We hope that this paper will lead toward increased action and focus on serving students with disabilities through existing SRTS funds.

Rescissions Process Likely to Result in Loss of Up to 4.45% of SRTS Funds in Each State

September 21, 2009
In our last issue of E-News, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership notified you that a number of transportation programs are currently subject to rescissions. All state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) must return a portion of their federal transportation funds to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)—including the Safe Routes to School program. The rescissions process is complicated for SRTS – but states will have to return a maximum of 4.45% of their SRTS funds. For additional information on how the rescission amount will be calculated, including a state-by-state table of maximum SRTS rescissions, please review our rescissions memo. UPDATE: the final rescission numbers for each state are now available.  UPDATE #2:  Ultimately these rescissions were cancelled by Congress, and funds were returned to each state's Safe Routes to School program.

Partnership Releases Working Group Report on SRTS Implementation Challenges

May 7, 2009
Last fall, the Partnership has convened a Working Group on Implementation to examine the impact of the title 23 regulations that govern SRTS on project delivery and costs and develop more specific recommendations. Together, Working Group participants convened monthly to discuss implementation challenges and opportunities. The Partnership’s Working Group on Implementation has just released the product of those discussions, a report entitled “Implementation Challenges with the Federal SRTS Program: An Examination of Title 23 Regulations, the Impact on Project Costs and Timing, and Opportunities for More Efficient Project Delivery". The report provides background on the existing regulatory processes, identifies best practices that many state DOTs are already undertaking, and proposes legislative and administrative solutions that could make SRTS projects more efficient, without undermining important environmental and labor projections. We have already begun to share the report with key Congressional offices and the Federal Highway Administration, and hope that state SRTS Coordinators will find it useful in their own implementation. We would like to thank the members of the Working Group, who are identified in the report’s appendix, and all those local SRTS recipients who completed the implementation survey last December.

Partnership Issues Best Practices for State SRTS Programs on Addressing the Needs of Low-Income Communities

April 10, 2009
Low-income communities often face challenges in applying for and implementing SRTS projects, due to shortages in staff, funding challenges, and engineering expertise. Yet, these schools and communities often have very high levels of childhood obesity, and can be the very institutions were significant numbers of children are encountering unsafe traffic conditions. A number of state SRTS programs have implemented varied approaches to address the special needs and challenges of low-income communities, either in the application process or the implementation phase. Based on input from State SRTS Coordinators, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has compiled a best practices guide that can help other state Departments of Transportation ensure participation in SRTS from diverse communities throughout the state.

Partnership Participates in SRTS National Review Group

March 10, 2009
The National Center for Safe Routes to School has convened a national group of forty stakeholders and experts to advise and provide support for the Center’s work. Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, is one of the members of the review group. Review group members include representatives from a range of fields, including safety, health, environment, and education. The group will provide advice on ways in which the National Center can provide support to local and state SRTS programs and advance SRTS initiatives.

Partnership Unveils 2009 Policy Report

March 10, 2009
The Safe Routes to School 2009 Policy Report - Moving to the Future: Building on Early Achievements examines the first three years of the federal Safe Routes to school program and identifies ways in which the program could be strengthened through policy changes at the national and local levels. It also identifies discusses a number of "big-picture" policies and practices that can help build a supportive environment for Safe Routes to School programs.

National Center Unveils Searchable Database of SRTS Projects

March 9, 2009
The National Center for Safe Routes to School has unveiled a searchable database of federally-funded SRTS projects. Data is provided by each state Department of Transportation. Federal SRTS funds awarded. Project lists can be generated by state, year awarded, and type of project supported. The Partnership requested that the National Center create this database to help assess the impact and spread of federal SRTS funds, and congratulate the Center on this valuable new resource.

Partnership Assessing SRTS Implementation

December 10, 2008
Due to federal regulations and state procedures, it often takes many months and a lot of paperwork to get a SRTS project started after the grant has been awarded. We have heard many reports that SRTS grants can be burdensome to implement due to state and federal regulations and procedures.

The Partnership would like to hear more from state and local organizations that have received federal Safe Routes to School funding through your state DOT about what is and is not working well in terms of implementation procedures. Please take twenty minutes to fill out our survey to document your experiences with the application process, award timeline, and implementation paperwork and processes. This information is critical so that we can work with Congress to make this program less burdensome for state and local grantees, and to get projects moving more quickly. The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=_2bBiL4NGwkZxjsn0Un5bSDA_3d_3d. Please fill the survey out by Tuesday, December 23, 2008. Thank you so much for your help!

Partnership Sends Letter to State Governors Regarding SRTS Implementation

December 3, 2008
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has sent a letter to each state’s Governor plus the Mayor of the District of Columbia regarding state implementation of the federal Safe Routes to School program. The letter congratulates states for their work in implementing SRTS, and asks them to award the remainder of available funding to help schools and communities struggling with traffic safety, childhood obesity, poor air quality, and school bus route cuts. The letter also encourages states to mitigate where possible the delays in implementing SRTS projects due to federal regulations and state procedures. Finally, the letter encourages Governors to share best practices or challenges they face in implementing SRTS with the Partnership so that we can work with states and Congress to implement best practices to urge implementation challenges.

Partnership Advocates for Key Short-Term Data Collection Needs

September 19, 2008
In preparation for the reauthorization of the federal Safe Routes to School program, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership has sent a letter to the National Center for Safe Routes to School requesting that they move forward with some key evaluation efforts. The Partnership requested that the Center: assess the increase in walking and bicycling from existing before and after surveys and tallies; produce a database of funded SRTS projects; and produce case studies of federally-funded SRTS projects showing tangible benefits in mode shift, safety, physical activity, air pollution, and community engagement.

GAO Releases Report on Safe Routes to School

July 31, 2008
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just issued a report, Safe Routes to School: Progress in Implementing the Program but a Comprehensive Plan to Evaluate Program Outcomes is Needed. The report was developed at the request of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the Ranking Member on the Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

The GAO report acknowledges that FHWA has made progress with implementation of the Safe Routes to School program, which was only authorized three years ago through SAFETEA-LU. The report notes that every state maintains a SRTS Coordinator associated with the Department of Transportation, that $75 million has been obligated, and more than 2,700 schools are being served. It states, however, that FHWA lacks a comprehensive plan for measuring the results of the program. Until a comprehensive plan is in place, it will be difficult to measure both national and local program outcomes and hold grantees accountable for their use of program funds.” The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Transportation direct the Administrator of FHWA to develop a comprehensive plan to monitor and evaluate the SRTS program with a requirement that states collect data, and that there be a formalized collaboration with the clearinghouse, the CDC and the EPA to explore the feasibility of developing “health and environmental outcome measures.”

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has analyzed the GAO report, and agrees that a national evaluation plan is needed for Safe Routes to School. We hope to work with FHWA, CDC, EPA, DOE, and the National Center for SRTS to develop such a plan.

National Household Travel Survey to Include More Questions on School Commute

June 2008
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has been encouraging the US Department of Transportation to collect more data regarding bicycle and pedestrian trips, including the school commute. We supported Congressional efforts to free-up funding for conducting a National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), which is the most comprehensive source of measuring all trips. We are pleased that new data topics for the 2008 NHTS include more questions on travel to school plus additional information on walking and biking. NHTS has prepared a Summary of Content that provides a good idea of core data items. NHTS collects travel behavior data for a full year to capture the seasonality of travel across months of the year and days of the week for all modes of travel. They expect to release data in fall 2009.

Safe Routes to School: 2007 State of the States Report

October 1, 2007
On Monday, October 1, 2007 at 12:30 PM, Chairman Oberstar of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a press conference in Washington, DC to unveil the Partnership’s Safe Routes to School: 2007 State of the States Report. The report discusses progress on implementation of the federal Safe Routes program. Photos are available from the event: