Safe Routes to School State Network Project

Leveraging federal transportation dollars to increase physical activity opportunities for children

The State Network Project brings together advocates, agencies, schools, churches, and others to ensure that states spend federal Safe Routes to School funds, and to advance state and local policies that promote physical activity, especially in low-income communities.

Dates of Project: December 2006 to December 2014

Description: Federal funding for Safe Routes to School programs offers an opportunity to bring physical activity back into children’s everyday lives. But states, which award these federal funds, and municipalities, which apply for them, need guidance and encouragement. Without continued advocacy, in 2009 states were in danger of returning $460 million in such funds to Congressional rescission.

From 2007 to 2011, the project helped 20 states, the District of Columbia, and three regions develop networks composed of advocacy organizations, state and local agencies, and others to advance Safe Routes to School programs. In late 2011, the project expanded to all 50 states and three more regions, and targeted seven states for in-depth work.

What have the results been to date?

  • The State Network Project has engaged more than 900 agencies and organizations in state networks nationwide.
  • Between January 2012 and June 2013, the networks ensured that states spent $242 million in federal funding on Safe Routes to School projects that might otherwise have gone unused—more than double the pace of the previous six years. And they have brought the needs of low-income communities to the attention of state departments of transportation to ensure that low-income communities receive their share of Safe Routes to School funds.

Safe Routes to School coordinators in each state “needed support in ensuring that these dollars got spent, and in a way that made a difference.”—Jamie Bussel, Program Officer, RWJF

  • The networks facilitated walking, bicycling, and other physical activity through Complete Streets policies, shared-use agreements, and other strategies.
  • A national learning network offers webinars, model policies and programs, resources on technical assistance, and a blog to enable advocates, government officials, and other partners to share information and best practices.

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Coalitions spurred states to spend $242 million in federal Safe Routes to School funds