Commissioner Nicely: Safer Routes To School, Healthier Tennessee Children -And Response

Thursday, December 4, 2008 - by Commissioner Gerald Nicely

Many of us remember a time not so long ago when children walked or biked to and from school each day. It was a time to play, catch up with friends, and get a few extra minutes of exercise. These days, more and more kids are catching the bus or a ride from their parents. Sometimes, it's a matter of convenience. Other times, it's a matter of safety.

TDOT's Safe Routes to School program aims to improve safety conditions near elementary and middle schools, and in turn, make walking or biking a safer, more appealing and healthier alternative for the state's school age children. The SRTS program is funded with $10.8 million in federal funds through 2009. The grants provide 100% of the project funding and do not require a local match.

In November, TDOT provided close to $2 million in federal funds to ten communities across the state. Those funds will be used for a wide variety of projects such as sidewalk construction, crosswalk improvements, multi-use paths, and enhanced signage and pavement markings. The grants will also fund important educational programs focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety.

With such worthwhile projects in the works near schools all over the state, TDOT is already looking ahead to next year's grants. Applications for 2009 will be accepted through March 27, 2009 at 3 p.m. To obtain an application or to learn more about the program, please visit http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/bikeped/saferoutes.htm
or contact our program coordinator at (615) 253-2421.

The Safe Routes to School program can integrate health, fitness, traffic relief, environmental awareness, and safety. It also provides an important opportunity for schools, communities, and local and state leaders to work together to promote a healthier lifestyle for our school children and create a safer, cleaner environment for everyone.

* * *

More information about Safe Routes to Schools programming locally is available at www.saferouteschattanooga.org. Providing mobility options for our children as well as adults is fundamental to many key issues in our society. From the health and wellness of our youth to transportation and fuel costs, providing opportunities for children to walk and bike to school is very important.

As our school district faces significant financial challenges, these broader issues of health, fitness, air quality, traffic congestion and transportation expense must be included in any cost analysis for school closures. The Safe Routes to School program provides direct benefits to parents, their children and our community at large.

Philip Pugliese
Bicycle Coordinator
Outdoor Chattanooga
ppugliese@outdoorchattanooga.com



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