Federal Funding 101

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. 

In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a National Safe Routes to School program. The program, which was signed into law in August 2005, dedicated a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009. The Federal Highway Administration administered the Safe Routes to School program funds and provided guidance and regulations about SRTS programs. Federal SRTS funds were distributed to states based on student enrollment, with no state receiving less than $1 million per year. SRTS funds could be used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. The legislation also required each state to have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator to serve as a central point of contact for the state.

In July 2012, Congress passed a transportation bill: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). Since October 2012, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities have been eligible to compete for funding alongside other programs, including the Transportation Enhancements program and Recreational Trails program, as part of a new program called Transportation Alternatives. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is charged with putting the legislation into practice, and it provides information about MAP-21 on its website.

Some State SRTS programs have developed a call for proposal process using one of a combination of Transportation Alternative program, Highway Safety Improvement program, and Surface Transportation program funds to support Safe Routes to School-related projects and activities.  Most State SRTS programs, however, are in the process of determining how to handle MAP-21 legislation. As the States provide information about how they will proceed with Safe Routes to School, the information  will be available on our State SRTS pages.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement 

The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program provides funding to state Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and transit agencies to invest in projects that reduce air pollutants from transportation-related sources. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities are included as measures to reduce vehicle use or improve traffic flow.

Funding is available for areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (non-attainment areas) as well as former non-attainment areas that are now in compliance (maintenance areas). For more information, contact your local government, Council of Government, or Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Highway Safety Improvement Program

The Highway Safety Improvement Program provides funding to states for projects that correct or improve a hazardous road location or feature or otherwise address a highway safety problem. The legislation lists examples of many projects eligible for this funding, including improvements for pedestrian and bicycle safety, and installation and maintenance of signs at pedestrian and bicycle crossings and school zones. A state may be eligible to use up to 10 percent of its Highway Safety Improvement Funds for other safety projects, such as education and encouragement programs. For more information, contact your local government, Council of Government, or Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

Title 23, Section 402 Funds

Sections 2001 and 2002 of SAFETEA-LU reauthorize the State and Community Highway Safety formula grant program (Section 402 of chapter 4 of Title 23) to support state highway safety programs designed to reduce traffic crashes and resulting deaths, injuries, and property damage. A state may use these grant funds only for highway safety purposes; at least 40 percent of these funds are to be expended by political subdivisions of the state. The program is administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov

Recreational Trails Program

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is an assistance program of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Federal transportation funds benefit recreation by making funds available to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses. Each state administers its own program. State RTP Administrators can provide guidance on state policies and project eligibility requirements. For more information on the federal program, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/rectrails/index.htm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies environmental health and healthy living (including overweight and obesity, and physical activity and exercise) in its many areas of interest. In fact, to support the national goal of better health through physical activity, CDC's Nutrition and Physical Activity Program has developed KidsWalk-to-School. This community-based program aims to increase opportunities for daily physical activity by encouraging children to walk to and from school in groups accompanied by adults, while simultaneously advocating the creation of supportive pedestrian and bicycle environments.

The CDC awards grants and contracts to help accomplish its mission to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov

The Environmental Protection Agency

Because of the potential impact on transportation modes, vehicle emissions and air quality, Safe Routes to School programs may look to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a potential source of funding. The Grants Program sponsored by EPA's Environmental Education Division, Office of Children's Health Protection and Environmental Education, supports environmental education projects that enhance the public's awareness, knowledge, and skills to help people make informed decisions that affect environmental quality. EPA awards grants each year based on funding appropriated by Congress. More than 75 percent of the grants awarded by this program receive less than $15,000. For more information and information on current grant opportunities, visit www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/information.htm