Frequently Asked Questions
What is the federal Safe Routes to School program?
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program was established in the federal transportation bill, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The program seeks to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, in kindergarten through the eighth grade to walk or bicycle to school, thereby promoting increased physical activity. The federal SRTS program is multifaceted and requires that applicants address noninfrastructure activities before, during, and after infrastructure improvements have been made.
Since 2005, the federal government has provided funding for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to implement a Safe Routes to School program.
How is the Safe Routes to School program administered in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has taken the lead in encouraging, promoting, and supporting SRTS activities across the commonwealth. The SRTS program is made up two major components, one focused on improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities around schools and the other aimed at noninfrastructure activities, such as education, encouragement, and evaluation, to promote walking and bicycling to students.
During the first three years that Pennsylvania received federal funding for SRTS, PennDOT contracted with the Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity (PANA) to administer the noninfrastructure portions of the SRTS programs throughout Pennsylvania. In 2011, PennDOT awarded the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) a contract to become the new administrator of the noninfrastructure components of the SRTS program.
What are the Five Es of Safe Routes to School?
The SRTS program is built around the “Five Es of Safe Routes to School”: education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and engineering. This comprehensive approach enables communities to establish, implement, and sustain safe walking and bicycling opportunities to school by involving students, parents, teachers, police, and motorists.
Education – This aspect of SRTS involves teaching students that walking and bicycling are healthy, fun, and sustainable transportation choices. As part of the education component, schools usually focus on stressing the many benefits of walking and bicycling: increasing physical activity, improving health, reducing fuel consumption, and increasing air quality. Students are also taught how to safely travel by foot or bicycle to and from school. In addition, motorists might be educated about the rules of the road as they relate to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Encouragement – Events, activities, and lessons are used to promote walking and bicycling. This component is especially helpful in areas where safe walking and bicycling opportunities exist but students need motivation and leadership to take advantage of them. In communities where walking conditions are considered unsafe, encouragement should not begin until the engineering component has been addressed, and safer routes can be established. Encouragement efforts often dovetail with education to get students moving and to build support for SRTS from the community.
Enforcement – To ensure that all roadway users abide by the laws designed to protect the safety for all modes of travel, an SRTS program should have a solid enforcement component. By partnering with local law enforcement agencies, schools and parents may be more comfortable allowing students to walk or bicycle, knowing that all roadway users will be held to the rules of the road. Enforcement is essential for the safety of students, especially as walking and bicycling to school gain popularity.
Evaluation – Successful SRTS programs evaluate the progression of habits and attitudes of students and parents toward walking and bicycling. Schools can use student / parent evaluation materials to track how children get to and from school and to reveal why parents do or do not allow their children walk or bike to school. Once student arrival methods and parental attitudes toward walking and bicycling are known, the school can use this data to craft appropriate solutions.
By conducting evaluations at both the start and the end of the year, a school may be able to determine if SRTS activities held throughout the school year had any effect on students’ walking and bicycling habits and parents’ attitudes toward allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school. Another important component of evaluation is reviewing “crash data” available from PennDOT to map where collisions are occurring and to use this information to try to ensure safer routes to school.
Evaluation provides useful data as to the scope and the success of a Safe Routes to School program. Tracking the progress and success of SRTS programs also provides data to show Congress that the program is worthy of receiving funding in future transportation bills.
Engineering – Engineering improvements to infrastructure is a critical component of the SRTS approach. A good way to assess existing and future infrastructure is with a walkability audit, which provides a thorough assessment of the barriers for children walking and bicycling to school. This assessment will yield a list of recommended improvements, from short-term suggestions such as painting crosswalks, clearing overhanging brush, or altering traffic light timing to long-term recommendations such as installing sidewalks or improving intersections. Engineering also includes the planning and implementation of infrastructure improvements to make it safer for students to walk and bicycle.
What is the difference between infrastructure and noninfrastructure?
Infrastructure projects involve the fifth E of SRTS—engineering—and include physical additions to or improvement of existing transportation facilities in the vicinity of schools. Traditionally, such improvements include sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, signs, and signals, although smaller improvements such as bike racks or bike lockers qualify, too.
Noninfrastructure activities are actions that do not involve physical improvements to the transportation facilities yet instead serve to increase awareness and encourage safe use of existing or future facilities. Specifically, noninfrastructure support involves development, implementation, or expansion of programs that focus on the first four Es of SRTS—education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.
Questions About Noninfrastructure:
Are noninfrastructure grants available?
Under Pennsylvania’s SRTS program, grants are administered to schools to help with noninfrastructure activities that plan, promote, educate, and encourage safe routes to school. In 2008 and 2009, 40 schools were awarded grants of $5,000 each to support their noninfrastructure SRTS activities.
Since 2011, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) coordinates the noninfrastructure portions of the SRTS program. In this capacity, PSATS awards schools grants for noninfrastructure activities that encourage, educate, enforce, and evaluate activities in promotion of Safe Routes to School. Between 2011 and 2013, $200,000 in grants will be available as noninfrastructure grants, and schools may apply for this funding in the fall of 2011 and 2012. Keep checking the website for updates about the grants.
Who can apply for noninfrastructure grants?
The applicant for noninfrastructure grants must be a staff member at a school district or an individual school.
How do I submit an invoice for reimbursement under a noninfrastructure grant?
The grant recipient submits certified invoices to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors for reimbursement. More information about reimbursement requirements for activities approved for funding with a noninfrastructure grant may be found at noninfrastructure grants.
Questions About Infrastructure:
Is SRTS infrastructure funding available?
Since the inception of the federal Safe Routes to School program in 2005, PennDOT has awarded 30 municipalities and school districts nearly $16.8 million in funding to address a variety of infrastructure projects, including construction of safer school zones, crosswalks, sidewalks, and curbing, which will enable and encourage children to safely walk or bicycle to school. Additional funding rounds are expected to be conducted in future years, but the timeline and amount available are dependent upon several factors, including the reauthorization of the SRTS program in the next federal transportation bill.
Since the federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, which originally authorized the Safe Routes to School program, expired on September 30, 2009, SRTS programs continue to be funded through short-term extensions by Congress. Until Congress actually formulates new multiyear legislation that will provide more certainty about how SRTS and other similar programs will be funded in the future, PennDOT has put on hold plans to move forward with any new funding rounds for SRTS infrastructure projects.
Who can apply for infrastructure funding?
The project sponsor must be a school district, an individual school, a municipality, a county government, or a regional planning partner (metropolitan planning organization or rural planning organization).
Are nonprofit organizations able to apply for infrastructure funding?
Although nonprofit organizations are encouraged to participate in SRTS projects, they are not able to apply as the project sponsor for SRTS funds.
What are Federal Aid Highway requirements
Since the money provided for infrastructure funding under the SRTS program is considered Federal Aid Highway funding, all of the associated requirements must be followed. Some of these requirements include compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Davis Bacon prevailing wage rates, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The project sponsor will be required to coordinate with its PennDOT engineering district to fulfill these requirements.
What other project requirements apply to infrastructure funding?
The project sponsor for an infrastructure project must coordinate with PennDOT on other project requirements, including right-of-way clearance, utility clearance, and consultant selection procedures. The project sponsor will be required to coordinate with its PennDOT engineering district to fulfill all requirements. PennDOT Pub 535: Overview of PennDOT Local Project Processes has more information about these requirements.
What is a federal cost reimbursement program?
Unlike a true “grant” program, SRTS infrastructure projects are funded on a cost reimbursement basis only. This means that no funds are provided upfront; instead, sponsors are reimbursed for eligible project costs incurred. A reimbursement agreement will be required for every project. The agreement details the specific project requirements, reimbursement procedures, and available project funding. Project costs incurred before official approval from PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for infrastructure funding are not eligible for reimbursement.
How do I submit an invoice for infrastructure reimbursement?
When a project begins, the sponsor may submit certified invoices to PennDOT for reimbursement. Upon receipt of the funds from PennDOT, which typically takes six to eight weeks, the sponsor must pay the contractor within 10 days after being reimbursed by PennDOT. By using this process, the sponsors do not need to use their own funds. However if the sponsor has sufficient funds, it may want to pay the contractor first and then submit the paid invoice to PennDOT for reimbursement. This will eliminate any delay in paying the contractor. Project costs incurred before official approval from PennDOT and FHWA are not eligible for reimbursement.
How do I become a registered business partner and vendor for the infrastructure funding?
Before signing the reimbursement agreement for an infrastructure project, the project sponsor must obtain a SAP vendor number and become a registered business partner with the commonwealth. Some sponsors may already be a registered business partner and have a SAP number. Although it is not necessary to register as a business partner or obtain a SAP vendor number when applying for funding, it is recommended that a sponsor whose project is selected for funding become registered to facilitate the reimbursement process.
- The sponsor must be a vendor in MYSAP, the accounting system and payment mechanism for the agreement. The sponsor can log onto www.vendorregistration.state.pa.us to register as a non-procurement vendor. Questions about registering as a nonprocurement vendor should be directed to the Central Vendor Management Unit at 717-214-2868 (Harrisburg area) or 866-775-2868 (toll free).
- Additionally, the sponsor and the design engineer must be registered business partners in ECMS. To do this, the sponsor has to log onto www.dot2.state.pa.us, select “registered business partner,” and register as a “municipality” regardless if the sponsor is a municipality or not. If a sponsor needs assistance with this registration, please call 717-772-0566.
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