Chattanooga, Tennessee: Hamilton County School District benefits from SRTS funds

Introduction

In March 2006, Safe Routes Chattanooga, a program of the Regional Planning Agency in Chattanooga, TN, was awarded $364,000 in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) federal funds through the Tennessee Department of Transportation to be distributed to seven schools in Hamilton County. Of this funding, $334,000 is for infrastructure improvements, and $30,000 is for the development of a pedestrian and bicycle safety educational program for the school district.

Activities

The seven schools to receive infrastructure improvements, in the form of sidewalk construction, crosswalk installations, bicycle racks and traffic controls, are Battle Academy, Big Ridge Elementary School, Brown International Academy, Chattanooga Middle School, Dalewood Middle School, Normal Park Museum Magnet School and Thrasher Elementary School. The $334,000 is distributed based on need, and Big Ridge Elementary is receiving $248,000 for sidewalk construction to begin fall 2008. The remaining $86,000 will go to the other six schools for painting crosswalks and installing bicycle racks and traffic controls, which should be in place by summer 2008.

The Regional Planning Agency is using the $30,000 in non-infrastructure grants to create a bicycle and pedestrian safety education program for the schools within the Hamilton County school district. With the funds, the agency will hire a part-time program director and purchases the necessary materials for the content creation of the curriculum. The goal of the education program is to create a toolkit from approved SRTS instructional templates and to integrate the education program into the school’s curriculum.

In addition to the grant funding, the Regional Planning Agency received private funding in 2006 from two philanthropic and educational foundations in the state. The Lyndhurst Foundation awarded the agency $10,000, and the Benwood Foundation granted the agency $20,000 for education and encouragement-related activities. With these funds, the agency purchased backpacks for the students, bicycle safety DVDs for the education program and created an informational packet for principals. Each year the agency prioritizes the schools according to infrastructure needs and sends the informational packets to the school principals to encourage them to work with the agency in applying for SRTS funding and implementing SRTS activities.

An issue the agency has faced is that many of the schools already have programs to oversee and do not have time to manage an additional one. To lessen the workload, the planning agency performs many front-end operations required in organizing an SRTS program, such as conducting traffic assessments and travel mode surveys for the schools with the help of the town’s traffic engineering department. By identifying traffic problems and creating the framework for the SRTS program, it is easier for the school to implement the program. The agency shows the prospective schools that it is a partner-oriented, holistic program that will benefit the entire community.

Milestones

The Regional Planning Agency plans to conduct post-evaluation surveys after the infrastructure improvements are completed at the seven schools. The pre-evaluation surveys occurred in 2006, with almost 100 surveys being submitted by the parents from the seven schools. Survey results revealed that parents would encourage their children to participate in SRTS activities as long as their children’s safety came first. Using this information, the agency has decided to organize walking activities at the schools after the infrastructure improvements are completed. The agency also is working on applications for two more schools that need infrastructure improvements. The agency will continue to assess the infrastructure needs at the different schools and encourage the principals to become involved in the SRTS program.

Contact

Melissa Taylor
Program Director and Senior Planner Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency
1250 Market Street
Suite 2000, Development Resource Center
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402
Phone: (423) 757-5216
Email: taylor_melissa@mail.chattanooga.gov