Lieutenant Governor John D. Cherry Jr. recently announced that 41 Michigan elementary and middle schools in 10 counties will receive more than $8.7 million in federal “Safe Routes to School” funding. The schools will implement safety improvements and education programs aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyles and improving opportunities for students to travel safely between home and school. Eight of the cities with schools receiving the grants are Cities of Promise.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Fitness Foundation reviewed the grant applications. The schools receiving funding will implement education and encouragement programs during the 2008-2009 school year, and complete infrastructure work, such as sidewalks and crosswalks, in 2009. The Safe Routes to School program encourages parents, teachers, neighborhoods, and schools to work together to improve safety for children who walk and bike to school.
“Children in every community deserve a safe way to get to school, and this funding will help communities across our state provide it,” Cherry said. “Here in Detroit, thousands of students will benefit from the hard work of their schools, parents, teachers, and community leaders who put these plans together.”
“Keeping children safe is the leading concern we hear expressed over and over from residents in the six Detroit neighborhoods where we work,” said Ed Egnatios, senior program officer, Skillman Foundation. “This funding will help Detroit and is an important step towards demonstrating the power of residents and youth, schools, city departments, and state government officials working together to make these neighborhoods better for children.”
The counties, villages and cities with schools receiving Safe Routes funding are:
Berrien County: the city of Benton Harbor, the village of Stevensville and the city of Watervliet
Genesee County: the city of Flint and the city of Grand Blanc
Kalamazoo County: the village of Augusta
Kent County: the city of Lowell
Mackinac County: the city of St. Ignace
Muskegon County: the city of Muskegon Heights
Oakland County: the city of Pontiac
Saginaw County: the city of Saginaw
Tuscola County: the village of Maysville
Wayne County: the city of Detroit, Grosse Ile Township, the city of Hamtramck, and the city of Highland Park.
MDOT and the Michigan Fitness Foundation coordinate the program in Michigan, in collaboration with the Michigan departments of Community Health and Education, and several non-profit organizations and universities, including the Skillman Foundation.
“These improvements will not only benefit Michigan schoolchildren, but will result in safer routes for all pedestrians and bikers in these local neighborhoods,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “As an engineer and a parent, I am pleased our department is working closely with parents, teachers, students, and neighborhoods to bring non-motorized transportation improvements between home and school that encourage children to be more physically active.”
“Safe Routes to School is an international movement to make it safer and more enjoyable to walk or bicycle to school, as well as a common-sense way to increase physical activity and strengthen neighborhoods,” said Marilyn Lieber, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Fitness Foundation. “Children are our most precious resource. The Safe Routes to School planning process provides schools with tools to identify barriers and work with community partners to make it safer for students to walk or bicycle to school.”
Funding for schools was established by Congress under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users of 2005 (SAFETEA-LU). Safe Routes funding is 100 percent federal, with no local match required.
To be eligible for the funding, schools completed a “Handbook Planning Process,” which resulted in an action plan tailored to meet the specific needs of the school. MDOT, with help from the Michigan Fitness Foundation, structured the program to make the handbook planning process available to every elementary and middle school in the state. The handbook helps school communities identify local obstacles to walking and biking and to determine which steps to take to eliminate or minimize them. Safe Routes funding may then be sought to address some of the items identified in the action plan.
More information about Michigan's Safe Routes to School Program, the Handbook Planning Process, the Action Plan, and funding is available on the Web at www.saferoutesmichigan.org.