Program Practices and Demographic Factors Associated with Federal Funding for the Safe Routes to School Program in the United States

Created as part of the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) policy, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) provided $612 million to implement programs encouraging healthy opportunities to travel to school. This article examines the implementation of the program among states.

Using data from the Federal Highway Authority (FHWA), the authors collected data on state- and county-level federal SRTS program obligations for 2005 through 2009. Additionally, demography and geography information was collected to examine associations between factors and obligations.

Key Findings:

  • During fiscal years 2005-2009, more than $220 million was obligated to implement 2,298 SRTS projects.
  • Obligations increased 246 percent between 2006 (the first full year of funding) and 2009.
  • The proportion of administrative guidance objectives met by the state was directly associated with its obligation rate.
  • States with child poverty rates above the national median had lower rates of successful obligation of funding, as compared to states with lower levels of child poverty.

The article argues that, while states are making progress in fund obligation, the program will have little effect on the health and physical activity of children if the funds do not reach the local level. Looking forward, tracking progress towards full implementation of the SRTS program is important.