ODOT will award $28 million in safe routes to school grants statewide

ODOT will award $28 million in safe routes to school grants statewide

Morning rush (remember that?) outside Harriet Tubman middle school in north Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

All across Oregon, cities and counties (and one tribe) want more money to make it safer for people to walk and roll to school (remember going to school?). According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, 99 agencies from every region have applied for funding from the state’s Safe Routes to School program. 203 total projects have been submitted at a total cost of $73 million.

Competition for the grants will be fierce since there is only $28 million available this funding cycle.

In 2017 the Oregon Legislature passed a $5.3 billion transportation funding package that included $10 million per year for the Safe Routes program (increasing to $15 million per year in 2023). ODOT says they’ve lumped together two years of funding for this round as well as some funds left over from the previous solicitation in 2018.

The grant applications will be evaluated based on a set of rules established by an advisory committee that prioritize safety upgrades.

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(Source: ODOT)

The City of Portland has applied for two grants: A $2 million request to build new sidewalks on the south side of Northeast Shaver between 102nd and 115th to access Parkrose Middle School, and a $2 million request for sidewalks on west side of SE 174th Avenue between Division and Powell to access Powell Butte Elementary School.

There are many other projects in the region that would build bike lanes, safer crossings, and even multi-use paths. ODOT has applied for $730,000 to fund a 10-foot wide paved path adjacent to Highway 26/Mt Hood Highway to improve access to Welches Elementary School. You can view all the requests here (PDF).

Of course this funding stream was created prior to the coronavirus pandemic. With Oregon schools still closed and traditional routes to school no longer being used, I asked ODOT Safe Routes to School Program Manager LeeAnne Fergason how the pandemic has impacted the program. She said they’re still focused on encouraging families to walk and bike. “We are assuming the new normal will include the physical school buildings in some way and so addressing access is still relevant,” Fergason said. “Also many kids still get lots of resources from their school.”

The Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee will meet October 20th to make funding recommendations and the Oregon Transportation Commission will vote on the final project list December 1st.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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