We’re beyond pleased to announce that the 2017 Oregon Legislature passed a state transportation funding plan that invests in a cleaner, healthier transportation system to provide safer options for Oregonians, however they travel. We applaud our Oregon leaders for making adjustments to the bill that allowed the Legislature to approve it and move Oregon forward with a transportation plan that will create more affordable and healthy travel options for Oregonians across the state.
In addition to a massive investment in transit and trails of more than $100 million each year, and a sensible focus on “fix-it-first” maintenance funding for our roadways and bridges, new funding from the bill will provide $10 million annual investment for Safe Routes to School street safety improvements – bumping up to $15 million annual investment in perpetuity starting in 2022. This funding is for safety projects to improve safety for people walking and biking in the 1-mile radius of schools (commonly known as the “walk zone”). This level of ongoing, dedicated investment for school travel safety — and the positive impacts it will have on the health and safety of our communities — is unprecedented in Oregon, and will ensure more and more youth in Oregon can safely walk and roll to school and in their communities.
This is a big step in the right direction for the hundreds of thousands of students in Oregon who currently live within their school’s 1-mile walk zone. These students do not typically have a school bus pick them up, and many also do not currently have a safe walking route to their school. We know that lower income communities tend to also be the communities that are under-invested in transportation safety; these communities are at risk from traffic exposure on a daily basis. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership advocated for outright prioritization of these communities for funding during the legislative session, and though we did not see that in the final bill, we are still glad to see Title I schools have been prioritized for street safety investments with a lower matching funds requirement (20% vs 40%), which may result in a de facto prioritization.