Littlefork is among 19 schools and communities in Minnesota to benefit from nearly $350,000 in planning assistance and “Boost” grants to help support or start Safe Routes to School program.
SRTS is an international program to improve safety, reduce traffic congestion around schools, increase physical activity and improve health by making it easier for students to walk and bicycle to school and in daily life, said the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Littlefork City Administrator Sonja Pelland said he was notified by Dave Cowan, MnDOT SRTS coordinator, that the city will be contacted late this spring to get started with the planning process.
“We look forward to working with the school and the community to create this plan,” she said.
During the pandemic, when many students and families are learning from home and confined to their screens indoors, we know Minnesotans need safe places to get out and walk or bicycle more than ever before,” said Cowan. “These grants help give schools and communities more options to expand Safe Routes to School activities.”
Planning assistance grants provide communities with the resources to convene a team, understand key issues, prioritize strategies, and identify solutions that fit the local need.
Littlefork had also applied for Transportation Alternatives funding for Fiscal Year 2025 to coordinate the city’s improvement project with a planned MnDot improvement on Highway 217, the city’s main street).
“Our application was not selected for funding partially due to the MnDOT project now being delayed,” she said. “The city will continue to pursue improvements and future grant opportunities. Hopefully, we will still be able to coordinate with MnDot for our improvements.”
“Boost” grants support existing SRTS work, like providing bicycles to schools to improve physical education curriculum or addressing a community-specific need to help more students walk and bicycle to school safely.
New this year are the demonstration project technical assistance awards which allow schools and local roadway authorities to test engineering designs before installing more permanent designs which can help garner community support.
MnDOT announced the availability of this funding in October 2020. Grants in this solicitation are funded with state and federal Safe Routes to School dollars. Historically, nearly 70 percent of these funds have supported work within greater Minnesota communities.
Since 2005, MnDOT awarded more than $50 million in federal and state funds to communities to support Safe Routes to School. The majority of funding was awarded for infrastructure projects. The remainder was allocated for programs and planning that promote walkable and bikeable communities. See below for a list of grant winners.
More information about SRTS is available at www.mndot.gov/saferoutes or the SRTS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MinnesotaSafeRoutestoSchool/.