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CTC: U.S. Senate includes Safe Routes to School funding in Transportation Bill…

…but House approval is uncertain

US Capitol, Washington, DC

Photo (cc) Jacqueline Poggi

This post is republished from the Coalition for Transportation Choices (CTC). The CTC calls for a 21st century transportation system that enhances our economy and provides all Rhode Islanders with healthy transportation choices. Grow Smart RI is a member of the Coalition.

The U.S. Senate has approved a transportation bill (MAP-21) that includes continued funding for Safe Routes to School. Now the bill moves to the House where legislators previously introduced a transportation bill (HR 7) that eliminates this funding. The House is expected to vote on the Senate transportation bill instead of bringing HR 7 to the floor sometime in April after the two-week Easter break.

On March 14, the U.S. Senate adopted MAP-21, the $109 billion authorization of the federal transportation program, in an unusual – at least in recent times – bipartisan 74-22 vote. The bill included an amendment by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) to reinstate Safe Routes to School funding. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse supported this amendment and voted in favor of the transportation bill.

The Coalition for Transportation Choices is a strong supporter of the Safe Routes to School program (you can read more about that here and here), which is a federal transportation fund to promote walking and biking safety. Rhode Island receives about $1 million per year from this fund and grants it to municipalities for projects like adding or replacing sidewalks, traffic signals, striping crosswalks, and teaching pedestrian and bicycle safety to youngsters.

When people decide to walk or bike to get where they need to go, they avoid using vehicles that spew emissions, degrade air quality and contribute to climate change. Studies have shown that walking and biking to school benefits children’s health and academic performance. Adults walking with children gain health benefits as well and parents and students walking to school can add to cohesiveness in a neighborhood when the school serves as a nexus for social interaction.

But people who choose to walk or bike often face fast-moving traffic, large vehicles, insufficient pedestrian signals and other unsafe conditions. Rhode Island made grants of funds from the Safe Routes to School program in 2007 and 2010 for infrastructure projects like new curbs, sidewalks, signs, and signals and non-infrastructure projects like safety education. In 2007, 36 schools in 10 municipalities received funds. In 2010, 16 schools in 10 municipalities were granted funding.

Now all eyes turn to the House of Representatives and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has struggled to bring his own caucus to terms on a highway bill. The House won’t take up a transportation bill until after the two-week Easter recess. Members return April 16, the earliest a bill would come up.

You can help by calling or e-mailing your U.S. representative and urging him to support Safe Routes to School and the Senate transportation bill.

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