National Policy & Advocacy

Safe Routes to School: In Law, but No Dedicated Money. What Does it Mean?

Now that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) has been signed into law, we are seeing a flurry of excitement about what it means for Safe Routes to School, walking, and bicycling. And we are also seeing uncertainty about what the law requires and what it offers related to Safe Routes to School. In particular, the section that restored the Safe Routes to School program is leading to confusion for advocates and agencies alike. We are here to help you make sense of it what it means, why it happened like this, and what to do about it.

Congress Passes Infrastructure Bill Making a Historic Investment in Safe Routes to School, Walking, and Bicycling

On November 5, 2021, the House passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The Senate passed the bill in August, which means it now advances to President Biden to sign into law. Colloquially referred to as “the infrastructure bill”, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is a monumental investment in the safety and support of people walking and bicycling.

Federal Transportation Funding Extended for a Few Weeks – Again!

While Democrats continue to iron out negotiations on Build Back Better, the partisan human-infrastructure bill, Congress passed another short-term extension for surface transportation on October 28th. This extension runs through December 3, 2021. As a reminder, these short-term extensions keep funding levels and policy unchanged.

Federal Policy Q&A – Summer/Fall 2021

In August, we sent a link to the Safe Routes to School community to ask questions about federal policy related to walking, bicycling, and Safe Routes to School and committed to answering them here on the blog. Do you have questions? Submit them here.

Questions are italicized. Answers are bulleted below.

“How does your analysis on Aug 10 jibe with DeFazio’s work?”

Deadlines Loom for Infrastructure and Budget as September Rolls Around

After a busy spring and summer working on legislation to reauthorize surface transportation spending, Congress is staring down a September 30th expiration date for current funding. Congress must reauthorize transportation spending or pass a short-term extension in order to maintain funding for transportation. Where things currently stand:

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Makes Meaningful Strides Toward Increasing Funding and Improving Safety for People Walking, Biking, and Safe Routes to School

On Sunday, August 1, 2021, a bipartisan group of Senators released the final bill text for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This bill reauthorizes transportation funding through 2026 and incorporates priorities originally identified in President Biden’s American Jobs Act. It is currently being debated and amended on the Senate floor. We will continue to update this post as developments occur.

Two key points:

House Transportation Bill Rolls Along

Last week the House of Representatives passed a five-year, $715 billion dollar transportation reauthorization bill called the INVEST in America Act. The bill includes significant increases in funding for Safe Routes to School, and reinstates the requirement for each state to have a full time Safe Routes to School Coordinator.  On a broader level, it also increases funding for bicycling and walking overall, and has a stronger focus on Complete Streets and safety for vulnerable road users.

House Transportation Bill Takes Even More Steps for Safe Routes

On Friday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee introduced the INVEST in America Act, their version of the surface transportation bill. It looks great for bicycling and walking. Similar to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) bill released last week, it includes programs and policies that promote bicycling and walking through significantly increased funding for active transportation infrastructure.

Senate Transportation Bill Is Good News for Safe Routes to School

Update May 27, 2021: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 on a unanimous 20-0 vote. Congratulations to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for winning an amendment that adds $200 million per year over 5 years for their new Connecting America's Active Transportation (CAAT) grant program.  The program would provide larger grants to local communities to help them built interconnected biking, walking and rolling networks.