The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved over $1.5-million in federal funding for what are called “Safe Routes to School Projects.” The Iowa Bicycle Coalition helps coordinate the annual grants, and spokesman Nick Sobocinski says the grants can be for infrastructure or education.
Sobocinski says the majority of the awards this year, around one million dollars, were for infrastructure programs for things such as building sidewalks leading to schools, improving sidewalks, putting in traffic signals or redoing bridges. One of the education grants is going to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“They’re doing a GPS mapping called the I-Walk program, where they’re going to 12 different communities with I-phones that are GPS compatible. They’re walking the sidewalks of that community and making note of where improvements need to be made which can then be taken to the city or public works department to eventually write a Safe Routes infrastructures grants or they can take it on on their own,” Sobocinski says.
The main goal is to make it easier and safer for kids to walk to school. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition does a lot of education in workshops around the state. “Going out into the classrooms and presenting a safety course to kids, along with numerous other things,” Sobocinski explains. The other things such as promoting “International Walk to School Day,” and a “Bike to School Day” this spring, and they also hold an annual conference.
There is a minimum of one-million dollars available each year and the program has been going on for six years. Sobocinski believes it has made an impact on the number of kids who are walking instead of riding to school.
“It definitely has, and that’s where my organization comes in to sort of bridge that gap,” Sobocinski says. “A lot of the times there are city officials and city planners and city engineers that are writing these grants to build the sidewalks, and we try go in on the school side of things and do that safety education…we’re going to talk to your kids about how to best make use of it.”
Sobcinski says there are many good reasons to encourage more kids to walk or ride their bikes to school.”Not only is it gonna help with childhood obesity which is a growing problem now, but hopefully we can reduce some of the traffic around schools. Upwards of 25% of the morning traffic backlog tends to be parents dropping their kids off at schools, so we’re trying to reduce that number, reduce pollution around schools,” Sobicinski said.
Here is a list of the projects:
Dubuque Walking School Bus Dubuque Community School District $12,540
Iowa Safe Routes to School Partnership Iowa Bicycle Coalition $95,200
I-WALK: Building on Successful Safe Routes to School Partnerships Iowa Department of Public Health $187,812
Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission Safe Routes to School Plan UERPC $115,000
Noninfrastructure costs for recommended infrastructure projects Multiple recipients $17,147
Boyer Valley Safe Routes to School Dow City $45,960
Cleveland Elementary Sidewalks Cedar Rapids $62,100
Columbus Junction Sidewalk Extensions Columbus Junction $87,500
Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence Sidewalk and Crossing Improvements Waterloo $64,860
Irving Elementary School Crossing Improvements Waterloo $92,000
Kalona Elementary Safe Routes to School Kalona $141,182
Keokuk Sidewalk Improvements Keokuk $135,584
Safe Routes to School Shenandoah Shenandoah $236,000
Sidewalk Installation for Safety Improvements Sergeant Bluff $220,000