Potential Funding for Safe Routes to School
A State Department of Transportation (DOT) developed Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is a new Federal requirement of SAFETEA-LU, 23 USC 148, and is a major part of the core Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The purpose of a SHSP is to identify the State’s key safety needs and guide investment decisions to achieve significant reductions in highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.
The amount of federal safety funding that each state receives amounts to approximately ten times more than the funding allocated by the federal government for state Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. Since SRTS is eligible to be included in a state’s SHSP, this is an important strategy for augmenting funding for projects that will make walking and bicycling to schools safer.
Your State DOT is required to use a cooperative process, including input from public and private safety stakeholders, to develop the SHSP. The SHSP is to be a data-driven, four- to five-year comprehensive plan that integrates engineering, education, enforcement and emergency medical services (EMS). The SHSP establishes statewide goals, objectives, and key emphasis areas developed in consultation with Federal, State, local, and private sector safety stakeholders.
Your state is required to finalize their SHSP by September 30, 2007, or their safety funds are frozen at pre-SAFETEA-LU levels until a plan is adopted. Most states will do periodic updates of their SHSP, so it’s not too late to get involved now. Some states will use their SHSP to guide future investment of transportation dollars beyond the federal safety funds. Check with your state DOT to find out about the process and policies in your state. Before contacting your DOT, we recommend that you do a web search for “Name of your state Strategic Highway Safety Plan” to learn more about existing policies.
Good SHSP documents will include a detailed data analysis of the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians, and will provide funding to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, including Safe Routes to School projects. It’s noteworthy (and tragic) that nationwide, 13.5% of roadway fatalities are pedestrians and bicyclists.
Advocates for pedestrian and bicycle safety should argue for a “fair share for safety” within a state’s SHSP funding allocations. This would mean that funding for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects would be proportionate to fatality rates for pedestrian and bicyclists within the state. For example, in California, more than 20% of roadway fatalities are pedestrians and bicyclists; as such SRTS advocates are pushing for 20% of SHSP funds to be allocated for pedestrian and bicycle projects. Since the SHSP is required to be “data driven”, this is a cogent and important argument to make.
The State of California has done a detailed analysis of pedestrian and bicycle injury and fatality rates, and countermeasures to improve safety. The needs of children walking and bicycling to and from schools have been mentioned in the plan. The State has not yet finalized how it will allocate the safety dollars to various user needs, as the process is still underway. Read the SHSP reports for various challenge areas including walking (CA 8) and bicycling (CA 13) at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/SHSP/
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published guidance on the development of state Strategic Highway Safety Plans which can be found at this link: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/guides/guideshsp040506/
The League of American Bicyclists conducted a study on the use of FHWA's Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds. The following document outlines the HSIP funding process and describes how these funds can be harnessed for bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/reports/highway_safety_improvement_program.php