Update from the Mississippi Safe Routes to School Program

Jay ThompsonThere are a number of exciting Safe Routes to Schools initiatives taking place around the state of Mississippi and the momentum continues. The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program has opened up its fourth funding cycle. Safe Routes to School has funded several projects that have resulted in non-infrastructure and infrastructure improvements to schools and communities. These funds both affect the built environment of communities as well as expand Safe Routes to School projects.

The opening of another round of funding allows for the expansion safer walking and bicycling to and from school. We’re also on a mission to increase the 13 percent of children ages 5 to 14 that currently walk and bicycle to and from school. Our endeavor is to get back to (and beyond) the 50 percent that walked and bicycled in 1969.

The availability of Safe Routes to School funding has galvanized a focus on prioritizing safety improvements around schools, resulting in improvements in traffic congestion and increased physical activity. Furthermore, Safe Routes to School is a tool to help communities protect children and prevent tragedies. The safety and injury prevention component is an important one and with much attention being given to both, injury and death rates are lower now than they were in 2009.

In Mississippi, Safe Routes applicants have the opportunity to apply for up to $250,000 under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Communities are required to have a team of individuals who will plan and implement the project. This team must have at a minimum, representatives from the city or county (depending on who’s applying) and the school(s) involved.

A two-hour workshop will be offered in five locations statewide. Participants will be walked through the 2013 Safe Routes to School Guidelines and 2013 Comprehensive Application form in hopes of answering questions participants may have. This workshop is free of charge and is not mandatory to apply. Guidelines and applications are online at www.mdottrafficsafety.com in the Safe Routes to School section. (Look to the right on the Safe Routes to School page for Guidelines and Applications.) If you are unable to access the application or guidelines, please contact me at cleffler@mdot.ms.gov or 601-359-1454 for a hard copy.