What does it cost to make a school safe for walking and bicycling?

UPDATED 5/17/2016

We get a lot of questions about cost for Safe Routes to School improvements, and it’s difficult to answer. First we have to know what the school needs — a school assessment, or action plan, is a helpful start, but not every school has one. Costs for pedestrian and bicycle safety infrastructure needs around schools often vary greatly from city to city and state to state, but in general are low-cost compared to the costs of building new roadways. The one-time cost for infrastructure improvements vary based on school needs, but conservative improvements identified at surveyed schools in Oregon indicate an average of $1 million per school in infrastructure needs. New Jersey Safe Routes to School has a good tool for estimating costs.

Generally, the one-mile area around a school is considered the “walk zone” — where no yellow school bus service is available. In the Portland Metro region and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington, jurisdictions have begun the work of identifying the specific safety needs  around schools so they can gather a comprehensive picture of needs and  begin to tackle them.

Our work with local and regional jurisdictions to support allocation of funding toward these projects ensures we can begin to address this issue – especially at schools where the needs are greatest because kids are already walking along and across unsafe streets. It’s important to remember that it’s not just students who need to walk or bicycle near schools – school staff, neighbors, those getting to a transit stop or a local shop, and visitors do, too.

Here are a few examples.

Updated 5/17/2016: additional information on the cost and impact of Safe Routes to School investments in Clackamas County.

In Clackamas County, Linwood Elementary families recently conducted a walk audit of their school.


Families at Linwood Elementary want to take action to make walking and bicycling to school safer.

Partial list of recommended engineering improvements include:

Improvement Location Cost Estimate
Sidewalks West side of Stanley Ave from Harlene to Monroe St $70,000
Addition of bike lane adjacent to sidewalks Stanley Ave from Monroe St to Linwood Elementary $10,000
Speed tables (2) Linwood Avenue $7,000
Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) Linwood Avenue at School Entrance $40,000
TOTAL (Partial list) $127,000




From Engineering Report for Rigler Elementary

In Multnomah County, engineering reports created by the City of Portland for selected schools:

Name of school Cost of recommended engineering improvements
Faubion $965,650
Lent $1,064,200
Rigler $614,600 (short-term priorities only)
Sacramento $1,210,800



Enter a new way for children to safely get to school. (c) Pamplin Media

Updated 5/17/2016: additional information on the cost and impact of Safe Routes to School investments in Washington County.

Washington County’s School Access Improvement Study (pdf) evaluated access to 53 public schools significantly impacted by County roads in urban unincorporated Washington County or within cities, coming up with a list of around $100 million from that subset alone. The City of Tigard’s Metzger Elementary potential improvements:

Improvement Location Cost Estimate
Sidewalks Washington Dr: Taylors Ferry to Hall Blvd $682,000
Sidewalks Locust St: Hall Blvd to 72nd Ave $1,466,000
Sidewalks with Bike Lanes 80th Ave: Taylors Ferry to Locust St $1,242,000
Accessways Various Locations $679,000
TOTAL $4,069,000


One thought on “What does it cost to make a school safe for walking and bicycling?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s