In order to increase opportunities for children to walk and bicycle to school safely, the 2005 federal transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, provided funding for Safe Routes to School in all 50 states. The federal Legislature created SRTS, in part, to help reverse the alarming nationwide increase in childhood obesity and inactivity. The program has numerous benefits to local communities including reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and helping kids arrive to school focused and ready to learn.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Planning includes parent surveys, community walk and bike audits and subsequent data collection into the national database. The planning processes ask for several meetings, with specific agendas and deliverables which support communities and school districts embracing safety and health benefits for those who walk or bike. The ECRDC has assisted a number of communities in the development of SRTS plans including the communities of Princeton, Hinckley, Kanabec County, and Isanti County. As a result communities are eligible to apply for MnDOT funding to develop sidewalks and walking paths near and around the schools. The ECRDC also offers technical assistance in developing these funding applications.