Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs support children safely walking and biking to and from school. Each state Department of Transportation (DOT) awards federal grant money to proposal applications made by local SRTS programs. Because demand for federal SRTS funding far exceeds most states’ budgets for their program, state DOTs must carefully select the SRTS proposals that receive an award. By definition, most local program proposals that meet the federal guidelines to receive SRTS grant money will include elements that contribute to pedestrian safety. As a result, state DOTs that wish to leverage their SRTS funds are faced with the difficult task of choosing those proposals with the greatest potential to successfully increase the safety and number of children walking or biking to school.
This report compares how five state DOTs – Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin – select the most promising SRTS proposals for funding. It reviews how the five states approach the selection process by considering grant types, SRTS plans, eligibility requirements, program distribution policies, proposal review processes, and established selection criteria. The selection processes and criteria used are reviewed to highlight examples of best practices that consider (1) the four common barriers to walking and biking to school (distance, income, parent values and parent concerns), (2) the “five E’s” commonly used to classify SRTS program elements (engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation), and (3) the five conceptualized stages of an SRTS program (existing conditions, planning, proposal, implementation, and assessment of outcomes).
The results of this review are insights into how the five state DOTs define an effective SRTS program and how they prioritize awards for the many good SRTS program proposals they receive. Examples of effective selection practices are identified as a basis for making specific recommendations on what constitutes a promising proposal selection process that awards programs with the highest potential to increase the safety and number of children walking or biking to school.
An appendix contains documentation on the original SRTS proposal selection protocols used by the five contributing state DOTs.