Safe Routes to School Grant awarded
By Anna Erickson
Park Rapids is the recipient of Safe Routes to School funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The grants totaling $4.8 million will support efforts at 138 schools in 50 communities across the state.
Park Rapids is the recipient of a planning grant that will be worked on with Headwaters Regional Development Commission.
“In a nutshell we’ll be looking at a holistic approach to find solutions to get more kids to walk and bike to school,” said Kurt Wayne, development specialist with HRDC.
The grant will provide funding to complete a Safe Routes to School plan to help analyze existing conditions, gather public input and identify potential infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions at K-8 schools.
The main partners will be HRDC, Century School, Community Education, the city of Park Rapids and Hubbard County, Wayne said.
The planning will encompass the five “E’s,” he said – engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation and enforcement.
“We’ll work on making a blueprint for the future,” Wayne said.
The grant was applied for after an Active Living group and others identified the need for safe routes in Park Rapids. Highway 34 and Highway 71 are difficult areas for kids to cross the street and this planning will look at those areas.
Wayne anticipates the planning will begin this fall with the 2014-15 school year.
Other communities received infrastructure funding to improve the environment and infrastructure around the schools such as crosswalks and trails.
“These projects will help communities increase opportunities for children to walk and bike to school,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “More students walking and biking means less traffic on the road and in front of schools, improving safety and promoting healthier kids.”
MnDOT announced the available grants in December 2013. It received 85 applications and funded 60 applications. The total amount requested was $11.3 million.
All Safe Routes to School grants in this solicitation are federal funds. The infrastructure grant includes a 20 percent local match. Each infrastructure grant includes a resolution of support from the local governing body to ensure community support. No local match is required for planning assistance grants.
Since 2005, MnDOT awarded nearly $15.5 million in federal funds to communities to support Safe Routes to School. The majority of funding – $13.1 million – was awarded for infrastructure projects. The remainder was allocated for non-infrastructure items and activities.
This solicitation used the remaining federal Safe Routes to School funds. Federal funding for the program is now available through the new Transportation Alternatives Program. Safe Routes to School projects occur in all 50 states.
More information is available at www.mndot.gov/saferoutes.