A safer route for students to walk or bike to school.  That's the aim of the Safe Routes To School program - an international initiative that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been in involved with since 2005.

The state agency recently made their 2022 spending task list public.  In total nearly 180 schools from around Minnesota will receive their share of $8,234,000 in dollars pledged to help "improve safety and reduce traffic congestion around schools".  The end result are campuses that have improvements to make it safer and easier for students to walk to or bicycle to school; the added benefit is an increase in physical activity and improved health of students.

School bus in Duluth, MN
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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This years $8.2 million will continue the pledge that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has made.  Since the beginning in 2005, MNDOT has awarded more than $50 million in federal and state dollars to communities taking part in the Safe Routes To School program.  While some of the spending went to planning and programs that promote walkable and bikeable communities, the vast majority of the awarded dollars funded infrastructure projects that benefited the school campuses, districts, and communities as a whole.

MNDOT awards the money to school communities with a three prong approach:

  • Planning assistance grants: Allows communities the resources to convene a committee or group, research the key issues, prioritize strategies, and identify solutions.
  • Boost grants:  This helps enhance existing local programs.
  • Infrastructure grants:  Funding here allows for construction funding for projects that promote and encourage more students to walk or bicycle to school.  Additionally, they look for ways to make these pedestrian and bike paths safer and more accessible - adding sidewalks, trails, crosswalk markings, flashing beacons, and other traffic control devices.

Duluth was included on the list of "infrastructure" projects.  While it's true that metro school districts and communities receive a sizable amount of funding via the Safe Routes To School program, the Minnesota Department of Transportation shares that "historically, nearly 70-percent of these funds (for the program) have supported work within Greater Minnesota communities.

Duluth Denfeld High School - Duluth School District in Duluth, MN
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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The full list of financial awards and more details about the Safe Routes To School program is available on the Minnesota Department of Transportation's website.

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