Grants available for Safe Routes to School program



Projects can range from the educational to actual bike and pedestrian paths.
COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking for projects that make it safer and more appealing for children in kindergarten through eighth grade to walk or ride their bikes to school.
The state also has the money to see that those projects are implemented.
The program is intended to make it easier and safer for children to commute to school using their own power and is the first of its kind for Ohio.
ODOT is now accepting letters of interest for the state's first round of funding through the Safe Routes to School program, which will provide about 3 million in federal funding in the first half of 2007.
The program will provide about 5 million a year through 2009 for a variety of activities from educational, encouragement, planning activities and health projects to infrastructure projects such as sidewalks, pedestrian and bike paths, crosswalks, traffic calming or bike racks.
"These projects are unique for ODOT," said ODOT Proctor. "They can not only help improve infrastructure, but also support programs that help make it safer and more appealing for children to walk or ride their bikes to school."
The program was created by the recent federal transportation bill, which specifies how states can spend federal gas tax dollars. It is 100 percent federally funded through the Federal Highway Administration, which means there will be no required local share from applicants.
What's required
A minimum of 10 percent and a maximum of 30 percent of Ohio's allocation must be used for no-infrastructure-related activities such as education, enforcement and encouragement.
To be eligible, applicants must be a public agency or have a public agency sponsor the application. Likely applicants will be state, local and regional agencies including nonprofit organizations.
The application process begins by submitting a standard Letter of Interest (forms are available on the Web site) to the ODOT district office that represents the applicant's community by Jan. 26.
If an applicant's letter is accepted, ODOT will invite the applicant to complete a formal application, which must be submitted by April 27.
ODOT will be looking for projects that encompass engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation of programs that encourage children to walk or ride their bikes to school.
The funding available through this round can be used immediately if the project is ready. There will be a second round of funding available for this year beginning in April, with applications being due in September.
For specific information on program details, application processes and corresponding policies, or the standard Letter of Interest form, visit www.dot.state.oh.us/SafeRoutes.
Each year, about 2,000 children in kindergarten through middle school are injured and 28 are killed in fatal accidents as they travel to and from Ohio's schools, ODOT says.
With increased traffic on the road and fewer designated areas to walk or bike, the number of children traveling to and from school by walking or riding their bikes has decreased from half of all school-age children in 1969 to about 15 percent in 2006. This initiative is expected to help reverse that downward trend, reduce congestion and increase safety, ODOT said.

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