Missouri's Safe Routes to School funding - where are the projects happening? Who are they reaching?

MoDOT's Safe Routes to School program recently announced funding for 13 grants across Missouri totaling $3.4 million.

Where is that funding going? Is it reaching the communities that need it most?

In the 2011 funding round, Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grants were awarded to these cities, counties, and school districts: Albany, Birch Tree, Bloomfield, Cape Girardeau, Carrollton, Doniphan, Eminence, Hannibal, Holts Summit, Kahoka, Northwoods, Potosi, Russellville, St. James, Marion and Pettis County R-V. More details about the communities and their projects are on the MoDOT web site.

What is MoDOT Safe Routes to School funding used for?

The funding is used to fill in missing sidewalks, crosswalks, trails, bike lanes, safety or warning signs, bike racks, and other infrastructure that helps more students walk to school more often and with greater safety.  A percentage of the funds (10-30%, by federal law) is reserved for programs to encourage and promote bicycling and walking to school and to encourage and teach safe practices.

Where is Missouri's Safe Routes to School funding going?

Since the first round of funding in 2007, MoDOT's Safe Routes to School program has distributed $15.3 million in funding to 153 recipients.

Where has that funding gone?

As you can see from the map below, MoDOT's Safe Routes to School funding has gone to communities across the state, reaching every one of MoDOT's ten districts with multiple projects.

 

    

View Missouri Safe Routes to School Projects thru 2011 in a full screen map    

 

Rural Emphasis

The emphasis of the projects has been on small towns and rural areas. Not to say that there have been no successful urban or suburban projects--there have been!--but clearly a greater proportion of the funding has been going to small towns and rural communities.

Many of these communities lack basic facilities for safe bicycling and walking--and in many cases, the communities lack the tax base to effectively address the problems with local funding.  

For instance, many of the communities are simply don't have sidewalks leading up to their community schools, or crosswalks painted across roads that school children use every school day. With the high cost of sidewalk projects and a small population (and thus, small tax base), many rural communities just don't have the resources to tackle these problems on their own.

The map below shows what Missouri's Safe Routes to School funding would look like if it were evenly distributed by population--by comparison with the map above, you can see the rural emphasis of the actual grants:

           

          

View Missouri Safe Routes to School Projects - if evenly distributed by population in a full screen map          

 

Improvement in reaching underserved communities

Reaching schools with high poverty rates and large minority populations is a primary goal of the Safe Routes to School program--because those communities often have the highest child obesity rates and stand to benefit the most from improved health, physical fitness, and community cohesion that good Safe Routes to School programs bring.

Our preliminary analysis of the 2011 Missouri Safe Routes to School funding shows that real progress has been made in bringing Safe Routes to School funding to these underserved communities.

Low income schools receive more funding in 2011

For instance, for very low-income schools (those with 75-100% of students receiving free and reduced lunch): Prior to 2011, these schools were getting only about 15% of their fair share of funding. In 2011, they got 75% of their fair share--a huge increase, and a big step in the right direction.

See the graphs below--the increase in the dark orange area from the first to the second graph represents the improvement in this area from previous grant cycles to 2011:

 

           

   

   

 

Schools with high minority population receive more funding in 2011

For schools with a high minority population, the improvement was even more dramatic: Prior to 2011, schools with greater than 50% minority populations were getting only about 13% of their fair share of funding. In the 2011 funding round, they got almost 90% of their fair share.

Again, take a look at the graphs below--the increase in the dark orange area shows the improvement from previous years to 2011:

 

       

 

The Missouri Safe Routes to School Network has been working hard to promote Safe Routes to School in underserved communities and to make sure that those communities submitted applications for Safe Routes to School funding.  Network members are very pleased to see the progress that MoDOT is making in this area.

Credit must go to MoDOT's Safe Routes to School program, the MoDOT Safe Routes to School Coordinator John Schaefer, and the Safe Routes to School Steering Committee for making a very significant improvement in reaching underserved communities in 2011.

Missouri still has as ways to go to fully meet the needs of these underserved communities, but in 2011 the Safe Routes to School program is clearly moving in the right direction.