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More Funding Needed to Make Iowa Communities Walkable

Even though school is out, budgeting and planning for programs making walking to school safer are now in the works. (HealthierIowa.com)
Even though school is out, budgeting and planning for programs making walking to school safer are now in the works. (HealthierIowa.com)
July 5, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Transportation Improvement Program's five-year plan recently released by the Iowa Department of Transportation includes nearly $1.2 billion of much-needed funding for aviation, railway and roadway projects for fiscal year 2017. However, just a tiny fraction of that goes to creating safer routes for kids to walk and bike to school.

Jamie Carlson is a board member of the American Heart Association of Iowa.

"They allowed for $180,000 for safe routes to school projects," he said. "And, the concern we have, unfortunately, one mile of sidewalk costs approximately $170,000."

Carlson said even though the American Heart Association of Iowa recommends more money be spent on making communities walkable for kids on their way to school, it'll pay off in the long run.

"Increasing physical activities reduces healthcare costs," she added. "It takes congestion and cars off our roads and reduces busing costs, if that's used in the area, that can be eliminated."

And, even though it's the middle of the summer, it can be a good time to deal with improvements so more kids can safely walk and bike to school.

Michael Armstrong is an associate transportation planner with the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"The summertime is our planning time," he said. "It's a lot harder to schedule all the meetings, get people on board when they're also working on curriculum and teaching kids every day. I think summertime's a fantastic starting point to have these conversations for the coming year."

The American Heart Association of Iowa has posted a petition at HealtherIowa.com asking the Iowa Department of Transportation to increase funding for safe routes to schools in next year's budget, which is being worked on for release in August or September.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA