Safe Routes to School: How States are Adapting to a New Legislative Framework

Crossing guard stopping traffic for kids at schools.

Federal transportation funding changes have significantly impacted Safe Routes to School projects. This report examines initial findings regarding how states are adapting to the changes under the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

The Issue:
Since 2005, federal transportation funds available through Safe Routes to School programs have made it safer for children to walk and bicycle to and from school. Two year ago, Congress made modifications to the federal Safe Routes to School program. This report examines how 10 different states adapted to those changes.

Key Findings

  • While Safe Routes to School projects are generally competing well for TAP funding, it is still a significant reduction from when the program was a standalone.

  • Despite some creative solutions by states, matching requirements may be the largest barrier to entry for TAP funding for many low-income and small communities.

  • In Alabama, of 49 awarded TAP applicants, only five were Safe Routes to School projects.

  • Kansas received $40 million worth of Safe Routes to School project requests, but was only able to award $11 million over two years. 

Conclusion:
Slow program implementation by states and incomplete, inconsistent, and often unavailable data has created a hurdle for arriving at conclusive recommendations at this stage. It is important, however, to move forward with TAP competitions and award cycles, and adhere to best practice to ensure Safe Routes to School projects are competitive under TAP.

About the Study:
This report looks at how states adapted to changes made to the federal Safe Routes to School program under TAP. Interviews were conducted with 10 state Department of Transportation coordinators to gather information about their TAP implementation decisions affecting Safe Routes to School funding.