The Safe Routes to School National Partnership lauded a new bill that could pump $2 billion in grant funds into improving the safety of biking and walking routes that could benefit students on their way to and from school.
The Active Community Act of 2010, or ACT, was brought to the House floor yesterday by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to promote active forms of transportation that can improve a sense of community vitality, reduce pollution in the air and create jobs. An average of $400 million annually over five years would be authorized for the program.
“Too often we take for granted the value of being able to bike and walk to work,” said Blumenauer. “It’s unfortunate that many communities don’t have the infrastructure in place to make active and healthy forms of transportation more accessible. The ACT transportation grants will make it easier for people to get out of their vehicles and onto sidewalks or bikes, boosting heart rates and community vitality.”
A white paper on ACT said it would complement a proposed Metropolitan Mobility Access program designed to reduce transit time within America’s urban areas by providing people with affordable transportation options and cost-effectively reducing traffic congestion.
Safe Routes to School National Partnership belongs to a coalition of 26 national organizations and more than two dozen mayors and city councils in support of ACT. In a statement, the organization said it "is thrilled" at the possibility that that local communities might have access to funding that increases bicycling and walking.
According to Randy Neufeld, president of the America for Bikes, the funding would extend additional transportation opportunities toward alternative the 40 percent of all trips in the U.S. that are two miles or less. Traditionally, school districts have used similar distances when determining school bus ridership eligibility for middle-school or high school students.
The U.S. Department of Transportation would administer the grants through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, which has yet to be reauthorized by Congress. If passed, ACT would offer two application rounds. The first would take place 180 days after the passage of the bill, and qualified communities could receive annual grants ranging from $5 million to $15 million over a period of five years. The second application round would begin two years later. Grantees could receive annual grants ranging from $5 million to $15 million over three years. If a community fails to meet its obligations under the program, DOT could discontinue funding.