District 518 receives Safe Routes to School grant
WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced last week the recipients of $4.8 million in federal grants for Safe Routes to School (SRTS). The grants will support SRTS at 138 schools in 50 communities — Worthington being one of them.
“These projects will help communities increase opportunities for children to walk and bike to school,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “More students walking and biking means less traffic on the road and in front of schools, improving safety and promoting healthier kids.”
MnDOT offered grants in two categories: planning and infrastructure.
Planning grants provide funding for an SRTS plan to help analyze existing conditions, gather public input and identify infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions at K-8 schools. Plans will be completed by the Southwest Regional Development Commission or a planning consultant hired by MnDOT.
Infrastructure grants provide funding for improving the environment and infrastructure around the schools, such as building crosswalks and trails.
District 518 received a planning grant to develop an initiative for a safe route to school.
“We have some planning time scheduled at the end of May to see what direction the school needs to take to accomplish these safe routes,” said District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.
The district was not given a dollar amount, because MnDOT pays all expenses related to planning grants, including time put in by MnDOT employees and outside consultants.
According to Landgaard, the school needs to receive the planning grant before it can apply for the infrastructure grant, and that planning will continue throughout the year.
“We need to get the planning piece down,” Landgaard stated. “Then there is some state and federal money available later on to help provide infrastructure, but we need the planning first.”
An SRTS workshop, facilitated by national expert Mark Fenton, is scheduled for May 28.
Fenton is the host of the PBS television series “America’s Walking” and a consultant to the University of North Carolina’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
Representatives from other communities and their SRTS teams will be invited to observe and learn from the workshop.
The goals of the workshop are to develop expertise in SRTS planning and assessment from a community that has just been through the planning process; identify specific implementation strategies for SRTS initiatives; and position the community to build a sustainable SRTS initiative.
MnDOT announced the available grants in December 2013, received 85 applications and funded 60 applications.
All SRTS grants in this solicitation are federally funded. The infrastructure grant includes a 20 percent local match. Each infrastructure grant includes a resolution of support from the local governing body to ensure community support.
Since 2005, MnDOT has awarded nearly $15.5 million in federal funds to communities to support SRTS. The majority of funding — $13.1 million — was awarded for infrastructure projects. The remainder was allocated for non-infrastructure items and activities.
In addition to Worthington, Heron Lake and Okabena schools also received SRTS grants.
Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.