Grant funding is available for the construction and engineering of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) offers Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program funding to projects that 1) enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school, 2) make bicycling and walking a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, and 3) facilitate the development of projects that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution near New Jersey’s primary and middle schools.
Apply today for SRTS Grants!
Although projects can benefit all types of schools, the focus should be on schools with children in grades K-8 and on projects located within two miles of a school. Any New Jersey county, municipality, school, or school district can apply for funds, however they must demonstrate an ability to meet the requirements of the program (NJDOT has final authority regarding the eligibility of an applicant). As part of this certification process, a full-time employee of the grant recipient must agree to be responsible for the project. If no full-time employee exists, a partner municipality or county with a full-time employee willing to be the responsible charge could take the lead on the project to meet this requirement. All applications must be submitted through NJDOT’s online electronic grants administration system, SAGE. The funds will be provided on a reimbursement basis only, so it is critical to ensure money is available for the initial project investment prior to reimbursement. Extra consideration will be given to projects in disadvantaged communities and/or communities with a Complete Streets Policy or School Wellness Policy that supports walking and biking to school.
Securing SRTS grant funding doesn’t have to be difficult. The next four tips will help strengthen your application and increase the chances of receiving a grant:
1. Secure approval from all parties.
Ensure you have up-front approval from all stakeholders involved in the implementation of the project, particularly the school board AND municipality. “NJDOT wants to be confident that all parties affected by the proposed project are on board with its construction,” explains Elise Bremer-Nei, NJDOT SRTS Coordinator. “The goal is to benefit not only children, but the entire community.” Show evidence of support from every group, such as letters of commitment. Resolutions are sometimes required for projects affecting county or state roadways; a resolution can be in “pending” mode upon submission, but prepare to submit it within a week or two of the application deadline.
2. Create a comprehensive program.
A good grant proposal will achieve the following goals: 1) it outlines all aspects of infrastructure (access, street crossings, speed reduction, etc.) and proposes a project that addresses stated barriers, problems, and safety issues, 2) it documents the infrastructure problems using speed studies, crash data, photos, or anything else that details the severity of the problem and demonstrates a true funding need, and 3) it shows a plan of implementing education, encouragement, and enforcing projects. It is fine to consolidate problems if they are redundant, but be sure to detail the primary problems to be solved. If possible, include pictures of the project areas to enhance the description of the problems. Also, if the project benefits multiple schools and/or addresses other issues such as ADA compliance, this can strengthen the application. After reviewing past applications, Elise Bremer-Nei has described the qualities of applicants that stood out. “The best applications either identified severe problems that they could not solve on their own, or fully documented the issues and attempted to address many of them themselves.”
3. Include a School Travel Plan.
An SRTS Travel Plan serves an important purpose in a SRTS program. It “maps out” how to improve pedestrian and bicycle travel to and from school in order to increase the number of students who walk and bike to school as well as improve safety. A travel plan includes 6 key components: (1) school description, (2) working group and partnerships, (3) mapping, (4) walk/bike barriers and opportunities, (5) goals and actions, and (6) measuring progress. Lastly, a travel plan identifies short term solutions for immediate action and implementation as well as long term solutions that may require further planning. A comprehensive and thorough travel plan supports the need for your project, strengthens your application and earns an extra point when the applications are evaluated.
4. Identify Relevant Past Activities and Future Plans.
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to walking and bicycling is important. Describe previous bike/pedestrian projects or education, enforcement or encouragement activities. Show all past efforts to improve bicycle or pedestrian safety, and if the application does not include efforts, detail reasons why and suggest plans to do so in the future. “It’s important to anticipate any uncertainties or potential setbacks in a project prior to applying for SRTS funding,” says Bremer-Nei. “Be aware of any obstacles, look into potential implementation problems, and include all due-diligence in your SRTS grant applications.”
Other details can reinforce the importance of the application. Organizing large projects into phases will help categorize your needs and projected expenses. Also ensure that your project is compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prior to requesting funding.
Give it another go!
If your application was not funded in past rounds, don’t despair. Take this time to strengthen your last application either by creating a School Travel Plan or improving your record of relevant past activities by completing a strong and thorough application.
The application deadline is May 15, 2014. Apply online directly through NJDOT’s SAGE system.
For more information about applying for SRTS grants on our website, click here. Review the SRTS Tip Sheet to strengthen applications. Contact your SRTS Regional Coordinator to assist you with questions about your application.