PNS Daily Newscast - September 21, 2018 

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Demand Exceeds Availability for Safe School Route Infrastructure Funds

Funding in the Safe Routes to School proposal would affect nearly 100 schools and 24,000 students. (Pawpaw67/Flicker)
Funding in the Safe Routes to School proposal would affect nearly 100 schools and 24,000 students. (Pawpaw67/Flicker)
May 9, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Wednesday is National Bike and Walk to School Day, but many Minnesota school children won't be participating because of safety issues.

In 2015, about 12,000 children were injured and almost 200 killed while walking or biking, so children’s safety advocates say it's no wonder that fewer than 15 percent of children walk or bike to school.

Federal and state money exists for communities that want to improve infrastructure, making it safer for children to walk or bike, but Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, says demand far exceeds what's available.

"In 2017, the Department of Transportation received 128 applications totaling about $23 million, but only had $8 million of state and federal money to give away," he relates.

That means only 54 of the 128 applications for infrastructure improvements were approved.

So, advocates are pushing for Senate File 3493, the so-called "Safe Routes to School" bill. It would allocate $6 million for infrastructure improvements such as new crosswalks, curb extensions, traffic-calming devices and lighted walkways.

Grilley says those improvements will benefit not just students but the entire community.

"The whole idea of the program is to make bicycling and walking a safe and more convenient choice for everyone in the community because schools are not just destinations in morning and mid-afternoon," he states.

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates allotting $6 million would ultimately create safer routes to school for 24,000 students.

The proposal has been held over and may be included in the Senate's bonding bill. The House's version of the bonding bill does not currently include Safe Routes to School funding.

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - MN