Illinois Safe Routes to School (SRTS)

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The SRTS program is administered by the IDOT. SRTS uses a multidisciplinary approach to improve conditions for students who walk or bike to school. The program has three main goals:

  • To enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.
  • To make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age.
  • To facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity (within two miles) of both public and private primary and middle schools (grades K-8).

Illinois SRTS funds both infrastructure improvements to the physical environment as well as non-infrastructure projects. Eligible project sponsors include schools and school districts, governmental entities and non-profit organizations. Projects may be organized on a variety of jurisdictional levels.

History of Safe Routes to School: From Denmark to Chicago

The SRTS concept began in the late 1970s in Odense, Denmark over concern for the city’s pedestrian accident rate. The city implemented a number of improvements including a network of pedestrian and bicycle paths, slow speed areas, narrowed roads and traffic islands. The result was an 85 percent reduction in traffic injuries to children.

The first SRTS program in the United States began in 1997 in the Bronx borough of New York City. In August 2005, federal transportation legislation devoted $612 million for the federal SRTS Program from 2005 through 2009. In 2012, SRTS activities were eligible to compete for funding through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) transportation bill.



Why We Need Safe Routes to School: The Decline of Walking and Bicycling

Not long ago, children routinely moved around their neighborhoods by foot or by bicycle, often traveling to and from school in this way. This is no longer the case. In 1969, 42 percent of children aged 5-18 years old walked or biked to school. In 2001, that number had dropped to 16 percent. However, the 2009 National Household Travel Survey data reveals that the percentage of students walking and bicycling to school has remained constant at about 12 percent over the last 15 years.

Figure 1.  Travel Day Mode to School for Children Ages 5-14 Years

Figure 1. Travel Day Mode to School for Children Ages 5-14 Years

Figure 2. Usual School Arrival Travel Mode for Children Ages 5-14

Figure 2. Usual School Arrival Travel Mode for Children Ages 5-14

Figure 2 provides further analysis from the National Center for Safe Routes to School shows that 13 percent of children five to 14 years old usually walked or biked to school compared with 48 percent of students in 1969. Conversely, 12 percent of children arrived at school by private automobile in 1969, and, by 2009, this number increased to 44 percent. Rates of school bus ridership to school over this same 40-year span showed the least change, increasing from 38 to 40 percent.

What Caused the Decline in Walking and Bicycling to School?

The circumstances that have led to a decline in walking and bicycling to school did not happen overnight. Understanding the many reasons why so many children do not walk or bicycle to school is an important first step. In 2005 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a nationwide survey of parents to find out the most common barriers preventing them from allowing their children to walk to school. Top concerns cited by parents included:

  • Distance to School
  • Traffic-Related Danger
  • Weather
  • Personal Safety
  • School Policies

For more information on this information, visit the SRTS Guide at www.saferoutesinfo.org.

Benefits of Safe Routes to School

SRTS programs can help reverse the downward trend in physical activity levels among children. Walking and bicycling to and from school can contribute towards the development of a lifelong habit of incorporating physical activity into daily routines. Children who walk to school are more physically active overall than those who travel to school by car. Among the benefits of successful SRTS programs are:

  • Reducing the number of children hit by cars.
  • Reducing congestion around schools. Parents driving their children to school account for 20 percent to 25 percent of morning rush hour traffic. (Source: NHTSA 2003; Dept. of Environment).
  • Improving children’s health though physical activity.
  • Reducing air pollution.
  • Saving money for schools, through a reduction of the need for bussing children who live close to school.
  • Improving community security by increasing eyes on the street.
  • Increasing children’s sense of freedom.
  • Teaching pedestrian and bicycle skills.

At this time there are no funding opportunities available through the SRTS program. The last funding cycle was 2013-2014. To date, there have been four funding cycles with past awards in 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2014. Funding opportunities will be posted here as they become available. To be notified of future funding opportunities, please contact the Safe Routes to School Coordinator at DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov.

Policy

This page will be updated any time there is a program or policy change. These changes will also be communicated to registered users via email. Please continue to check this page as you plan and implement Safe Routes in your community.

Survey Tool - Free Online Parent Surveying in English and Spanish
Parent Perception Surveys and Student Travel Tallies are required for all funded SRTS projects. The National Center for Safe Routes to School has established an online data reporting portal which gives local Safe Routes to School programs the ability to collect parent survey responses online in both English and Spanish. This online parent survey option is offered in addition to the national center's free service of processing hard copies of the English and Spanish Parent Surveys.

To access the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s online data collection portal, visit http://www.saferoutesdata.org/.

Monitoring Policies for SRTS Award Recipients and Subrecipients
This policy was established to ensure subrecipients of federal SRTS funds are meeting the required guidelines. IDOT will maintain a report detailing invoice monitoring and on-site monitoring results.

  • Invoice Monitoring Policy It is IDOT’s policy that all invoices submitted for payment must include appropriate documentation to support the claims being submitted. Invoices without sufficient support will be denied payment until supporting details are provided. A random sampling of invoices from 5 percent of the projects by count for each project cycle will be completed to determine effectiveness in carrying out this policy.
  • On Site Monitoring Policy Beginning with the 2008 Funding Cycle (announced in August 2009), the Department initiated a policy to begin on site monitoring of at least 5 percent of SRTS projects by count for each cycle. Infrastructure projects will receive one visit before and after project completion. Visits before project implementation will be used to ascertain the reliability of the funding application submitted. Visits after project implementation will be used to ascertain the reliability of funds provided to meet the scope of work in the funding application. Non-infrastructure projects will receive one visit while the project is ongoing. Visits during project implementation will be used to ascertain the appropriate use of funds provided to meet the scope of work in the funding application.

Funding Application Policy Guidelines
New funding guidelines have been put in place for the 2008 and future funding cycles. These guidelines were determined by the Illinois SRTS Implementation Committee in conjunction with our consultant partners at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) and League of Illinois Bicyclists. IDOT also worked with the Illinois Safe Routes to School State Network Advisory Committee and took into consideration the application processes of other states, the previous Illinois application cycle, the concerns of the National Center for Safe Routes to School, and the guidance provided by the National Center and the Federal Highways Administration.
The funding guidelines are as follows:

  • One infrastructure and one non-infrastructure application permitted per school district* (with the exception of Chicago Public Schools)
  • One Infrastructure Application per school district
  • $250,000 funding limit for total application, with up to a 3 project maximum
  • $2,000 minimum funding per individual project
  • Associated municipality, county, township, or park district must sponsor – school districts and non-profits may not sponsor
  • All infrastructure projects must be within 2 miles of a public or private that houses any combination of students in grades K-8

One Non-infrastructure Application per school district

  • $100,000 funding limit for total application, with up to a 3 project maximum
  • $2,000 minimum funding per individual project
  • School district, municipality, county, township, or park district or non-profit may sponsor
    *Because all Chicago public schools fall under Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) application, the committee recommends that CPS is allowed a total of 5 applications, 3 Infrastructure and 2 Non-Infrastructure. This multiplier is based on the enrollment data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education, showing a total of 1.3 million public school students attending school daily statewide. The 2007 average daily attendance for K-8 schools in Cook County schools was 494,829 students, roughly five times greater than the average daily attendance of the next largest county – DuPage, with 98,703 students attending. The funding cap per application will remain the same, making CPS eligible for $750,000 in Infrastructure and $200,000 in Non-Infrastructure Funding.

We believe that these guidelines will help us to use Illinois’ Safe Routes to School funding to address the most pressing student pedestrian and bicyclist issues in cooperation with the schools, governmental bodies and non-profit organizations of Illinois. We also believe that these guidelines will allow for a relatively large number of projects to be funded throughout the state in coming years. This approach was developed to encourage school districts to apply for projects that address their highest priorities and emphasizes the importance of non-infrastructure programming. It also reinforces the important partnerships between schools, municipalities and community partners.

Can I apply for a project on private land (private school or parochial campus)?
The Federal Highway Administration’s Safe Routes to School Guidance addresses the issue as follows:
For infrastructure projects, public funds must be spent on projects within the public right of way. This may include projects on private land that have public access easements. Public property includes lands that are owned by a public entity, including those lands owned by public school districts. Construction and capital improvement projects also must be located within approximately two miles of a primary or middle school (grades K – 8). Schools with grades that extend higher than grade 8, but which include grades that fall within the eligible range, are eligible to receive infrastructure improvements.

For projects on private land, there must be a written legal easement or other written legally binding agreement that ensures public access to the project. There must be an easement filed of record, which specifies the minimum length of time for the agreement to maximize the public investment in the project. The minimum length of time for such easement is 20 years.
The project agreement should clearly state in writing:

  • The purpose of the project.
  • The minimum timeframe (20 years) for the easement or lease.
  • The duties and responsibilities of the parties involved.
  • How the property will be used and maintained in the future.

The project must remain open for general public access for the use for which the funds were intended for the timeframe specified in the easement or lease. The public access should be comparable to the nature and magnitude of the investment of public funds.

Reversionary clauses may be appropriate in some instances. These clauses would assure that if the property is no longer needed for the purpose for which it was acquired, it would revert to the original owner.

Is in-house engineering and construction eligible for funding?
IDOT’s policy allows in-house engineering and construction as fundable parts of SRTS infrastructure projects. However, please note, that the SRTS program will not cover expenses incurred before your project has been approved for funding and the notice to proceed has been given. There will be no retroactive funding for costs incurred prior to the notice to proceed.

Is there a GIS mapping requirement?
The GIS mapping is required for both School Travel Plans and infrastructure project applications. Further details on any mapping requirements will be made available in the application materials when funding is available.

Application Materials

The 2013/2014 funding cycle is now closed. Please subscribe to our email list to be notified of future SRTS funding opportunities. Past application materials can be found below. They should be used as a reference only, and will be updated before the next call for projects is released.

  • Infrastructure Application
  • Non-Infrastructure Application
  • Funding Guidelines
  • Local Agency Federal Flexible Grant Program

Funded Project Announcement

No announcements at this time

Success Stories

View our success stories on the SRTS website!

Do you have a success story about how Safe Routes to School has impacted your school or community? We are always looking for stories to share and to inspire the Safe Routes community. If you have a Safe Routes success story to share, please send us the information at DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov.

Walk 'n Roll To School

As part of the Illinois SRTS program, IDOT has developed the Walk ‘n Roll to School program to encourage and empower students to walk or bike to school and make it a routine way to travel to school.

If you have any questions about this program, educational materials, forms, or other resources please contact:

State Safety Engineer
Division of Highways
Illinois Department of Transportation
(217) 782-3568
DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov

For additional information regarding the Illinois SRTS program you may contact:

Priscilla Tobias
State Safety Engineer
Division of Highways
Illinois Department of Transportation
(217) 782-3568
DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov

Stay Informed – Subscribe now!

An e-mail subscription service is available to assist IDOT in communicating important information regarding the Illinois SRTS program. This is a one-way announcement service. Your email address will be kept private and not sold or otherwise distributed outside the department.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, click on the link below and send the blank email that pops up. (Do not add anything to the subject line or to the body of the email).