States throughout the U.S. continue to show that the Safe Routes to School program is experiencing growth and success as more children are introduced to the benefits of walking and bicycling to school safely. In recognition of the quick and effective implementation of the Safe Routes to School program, the National Center for Safe Routes to School awarded the 2007 James L. Oberstar Award to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
"The National Center is very pleased to honor Michigan's Department of Transportation and the hard work of countless partners to get the Michigan SRTS Program quickly up and running, and with processes in place to maximize sustained successes," said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.
The Michigan SRTS Program demonstrated a number of key program elements that allowed them to lay the groundwork for effective program development. MDOT first established a SRTS Handbook, providing tools and guidance to schools planning SRTS strategies. Along with partner organizations and various subcontractors, MDOT is also creating a number of specialized educational modules for specific program participants such as urban and disabled children, who may face special challenges surrounding walking and bicycling to school. Recognizing the need for program support, they also established training and technical assistance programs for schools completing the planning process.
Currently, 60 percent of Michigan's counties have a total of 256 registered schools that are in various stages of completing the planning process. Registered schools become the pool of applicants for State funds and their action plans are the basis for projects for which they request funding. MDOT maintains an open call for applications with no deadline for submittal, allowing each school to proceed at its own pace.
"State transportation departments are also about connecting communities and the Safe Routes to School program is affording our agencies the ability to bring neighbors and neighborhoods closer together through healthy lifestyle choices," said John Horsley, director, AAHSTO.
The award is named for Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) to honor his dedication to America's school children as the pioneer for the National Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program. Oberstar is the current chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and sponsored the federal Safe Routes to School legislation that strives to create safe settings where more parents and children can walk and bicycle to school.
Michigan received the award at a news conference in Washington, D.C. on October 30. Chairman Oberstar and Lauren Marchetti, director of the NCSRTS, presented the award to the Michigan Department of Transportation and Mike Eberlein, Michigan Safe Routes to School state coordinator.
For more information on the James L. Oberstar Award and to hear greetings and comments from Chairman Oberstar, please visit here.