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Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Grant and Program Resources
Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) Grant
The Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) Grant program is a bi-annual funding opportunity administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The program funds infrastructure projects that improve conditions for walking and biking within 2-miles of an elementary, middle, or high school.
The Active Transportation Alliance and Illinois Public Health Institute are partnering with IDOT to host a 3-part webinar series to help communities and schools apply for funding. Below are resources, links to register for the informational webinars, and answers to frequently asked questions about the grant program from 2023 and 2021.
SRTS 2023 Webinar Series Registration
- Webinar Part 1 – Safe Routes to School Grant Guidelines & Overview
- Webinar Part 2 – Q&A with IDOT Staff
- Webinar Part 3 – Q&A with IDOT Staff
- Webinar 3 Recording
- Webinar 3 Slides (coming soon)
- IDOT’s Safe Routes to School Webpage (Application, Guidelines, Resources)
- IDOT Contact Information
- SRTS Grant Program – DOT.SafeRoutes@Illinois.gov
- GATA Support – DOT.GATA@Illinois.gov
- Local Roads Office – click your district on the map, call the number provided and ask for your Local Roads Office
- Data Collection/Surveys
- Online Data Collection Tools – parent surveys and student tallies
- Parent Survey & Student Tally online data collection tool available at saferoutesdata.org through the National Center for Safe Routes to School. See this Help Document (page 7) for instructions on setting up a sharable URL to the surveys. This tool can help with online data collection and visualizing and summarizing data results for your SRTS application.
- We also have Google Forms available for data collection. If you would like access to the Google Forms, please email email@example.com and you’ll receive instructions on how to copy the form and use it in your own Google Drive.
- Walk/Bike Checklists
- Stakeholder Interview Sheet (PDF)
- Online Data Collection Tools – parent surveys and student tallies
- Detailed Cost Estimates: Depending on staff capacity, the following engineering firms are able to offer pro-bono support to some under-resourced communities in need of assistance creating a detailed cost estimates. Many of these firms can also brainstorm, provide general advice, or are available for hire. View the list of engineering firms here.
- Other helpful resources
- Safe Routes Partnership: https://www.saferoutespartnership.org/
- National Center for Safe Routes to School: https://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
- SRTS Materials from ATA – feel free to use any of these!
- Ride Illinois Bike Safety Quiz: https://rideillinois.org/safety/bike-safety-quiz/
- School Travel Plan Resources & Examples
2023 SRTS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The below resources are from the 2023 SRTS Webinar Series.
General (2023 Q&A)
Q: How can we get in touch with IDOT staff for additional questions?
A: Email DOT.SafeRoutes@Illinois.gov.
Q: Who is the sponsor? Who is the applicant?
A: Sponsor: The group who will be administering the project(s) must apply as the Sponsoring Agency. They will act as the fiscal agent for all projects and will put forth the initial funds for the project. Funds will be reimbursed through IDOT.
Applicant: Can be any representative and will be the first point of contact for the application. They should be familiar with the application, cost estimate, and project in general, to answer questions from IDOT if they arise.
Q: What are the GATA requirement for thie 2023 SRTS Grant Cycle?
A: For infrastructure applications, GATA is required for everyone EXCEPT for Local Public Agencies which includes municipalities, counties, and townships. For non-infrastructure applications, GATA is required for all applicants.
SRTS GATA requirements were presented during IDOT’s Special Programs Assistance Conference in 2023. Presentation slides can be found here: https://idot.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/idot/documents/transportation-system/memos—letters/safe-routes/srts_special-programs-funding-opp-pres-slides-2023.pdf
Q: What numbers should be used on the GATA uniform grant application?
A: Use the following in the GATA application:
- NOFO/Funding Opportunity Number: 24-1002
- Agency Funding Opportunity Title: Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
- CFDA: 20.205
- CSFA: 494-00-1002
- Fiscal Year 2024
Q: Can an infrastructure project that was just completed for a school be funded by this SRTS Cycle?
A: No, costs amassed prior to project application submittal, and approval, are not eligible for reimbursement under the grant program.
Q: Do projects on a state route need a letter of support from IDOT?
A: You will need to contact your local district local roads engineer at the district IDOT office to request a Letter of Allowance and discuss your project. State routes may have planned improvements – therefore it would benefit you to know if the improvements may be covered under a future IDOT project.
Q: If there are two school districts within a half mile of each other, can the sponsor apply for two Infrastructure/non-infrastructure grants. One for each district?
A: Correct, each school district could apply for one infrastructure grant and one non-infrastructure grant.
Q: If an applicant submits both an infrastructure and non-infrastructure application, would they be eligible for the $250,000 and $100,000 (maximums) for each application?
A: Yes. If both are submitted, they will be evaluated on the individual project’s merit. Max amounts are 250k for infrastructure and 100k for non-infrastructure.
Q: For the student tallys, how often does data need to be collected from students?
A: Teachers should collect data for 2 days for student arrival and departure. Data can be collected on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Q: Is there a list of previously awarded projects for both infrastructure and non-infastructure?
A: Yes, you may find previously awarded project lists for both types of projects at https://idot.illinois.gov/transportation-system/local-transportation-partners/county-engineers-and-local-public-agencies/funding-programs/safe-routes-to-school.html
Q: Is there a maximum allowed as far as attachments when the grant application is submitted?
A: IDOT can accept up to 10MB through the inbox. Anything larger will need to use a large file transfer. We prefer pictures over video and summaries over copies of tallies and surveys. Application documents should be in the pdf format.
Engineering & Design (2023 Q&A)
Q: If, through the PE process, it is determined ROW (or easements) are needed (not originally identified within application process), how is that handled?
A: This would be a discussion that you could have with your Local Roads engineer at your local IDOT District office once this occurred. Communication with Safe Routes staff and your local district staff is essential for Safe Routes project success.
Q: Is striping and signage required for all street crossings? Are all quadrants of the street intersection needed to be reconstructed?
A: This is an infrastructure question reagarding requirements that may be project specific. We recommend contacting your lDOT district local roads engineer regarding these questions.
Q: Do we have to have easements/ROW or preliminary engineering completed before submitting our application?
A: ROW and easements are not reimbursable with SRTS funding. However, you have 6 months to complete PE and ROW/Easements after the award of the grant. ROW/Easement concerns may decrease a project’s score.
Q: For infrastruture applications are contingency costs allowed and if so at what percentage?
A: Contingency costs are NOT to be included in the cost estimate.
Q: If we are including school sidewalk improvements as part of a larger roadway project, should we include the total project cost, or just the sidewalk/SRTS-related portion?
A: IDOT is interested in the entire project, but their focus is on the components that will be using SRTS funds, as well as directly impacting student safety while walking, biking, or rolling to school. Include the entire project in the description, but focus on the items you wish to use SRTS funds within the budget portion.
Eligibility (2023 Q&A)
Q: Is street lighting along a new sidewalk path along a road an eligible expense?
A: Pedestrian lighting, for pedestrian or bicyclist safety purposes, is an eligible expense. The SRTS Grant, however, will not pay for street lighting.
Q: Would a school-district-wide bike route plan be eligible for funding?
A: Yes. Contact IDOT’s SRTS staff directly at DOT.SafeRoutes@Illinois.gov for any additional questions about this type of project.
Q: For non-infrastructure projects, are staff salaries for putting together materials, conducting surveys, hosting a bike rodeo, doing research, etc. eligible costs?
A: No, Safe Routes to School cannot reimburse salaries or stipends for administrative/operational expenses.
Q: Are agencies allowed to submit two or more infrastructure applications and if so, is it possible to be approved for both applications for the same cycle?
A: Applicants are restricted to one infrastructure and one non-infrastructure application per school campus/school district within the 2023 cycle.
Q: Is sidewalk relocation (from carriage walk) to seperate it with a parkway an eligible project?
Yes, this would be eligible as long as it is in relation to students walking, biking, and rolling to school. Please keep in mind the max on infrastructure projects, and be sure to emphasis any data you have on close calls, safety concerns regarding students walking, biking, or rolling to school.
Outreach (2023 Q&A)
Q: Can we reuse surveys and tallies from previous application?
A: Ideally, your survey data is current (from the 2022 school year or August/September 2023). However, if needed, it would be acceptable to submit survey and tally data no later than 2019. Summaries of tallies and survey data is required.
Q: How should the survey and tally data be summaried?
A: IDOT does not have stipulations on the formatting of the summarized data.
Q: Are there Spanish versions of the student tally form and the walkability/bikeability worksheets?
A: The study tally form was developed outside of IDOT and a Spanish version is currently not available. The walkability/bikeability worksheets are available in Spanish as well as other languages through NHTSA and are liked here:
- Walkability Checklist (English) (PDF)
- Walkability Checklish (Spanish) (PDF)
- Bikeability Checklist (English) (PDF)
- Bikeability Checklist (Spanish) (PDF)
Q: Are there formatting requirements for the letters of support and public comment summaries?
A: There is no format requirement for letters of support or public comment summaries. As Safe Routes is a community-centered program, IDOT will accept all letters of support (from children, parents, neighbors, etc.).
Non-Infrastructure Programming (2023 Q&A)
Q: Is the educational component to be incorporated within school curriculum or can it be used outside of school hours/property?
A: Our educational programming and events are for use for school aged children within the applicant community.
Q: Can non-infrastructure funding go towards compensation for parents who are hired as walking/bike bus “drivers”?
A: No, salaries or stipends for volunteers or staffing are not allowed under Safe Routes to School funding.
Q: Where can I find examples on non-infrastructure programming?
A: We suggest checking out the National Center for Safe Routes to School and/or the Safe Routes National Partnership for ideas.
Q: What does a detailed cost estimate look like for a non-infrastructure community plan? A proprosal from a consulting firm?
A: Yes, a proposal from a consulting firm could be used for a detailed cost estimate.
Q: Could a municipality apply for SRTS non-infrastructure funding to ensure that child-centered infrastructure design is centered in our next comprehensive plan? This could involve detailed research to understand where our children are living and where our “low-hanging fruit” improvements are.
A: IDOT is always excited to see project ideas relating to evaluation. Please reach out direct to our email with your ideas. DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov.
Q: What is included in the mini-grant packet?
A: The mini-grant packets include:
- Resources and resource links
- Basic outline for pre-event, event, and post-event materials and recommended activities
- Funding for supplies required by the grant, printing costs, and encouragement items
2021 SRTS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The below resources are from the 2021 SRTS Webinar Series – while many of the answers below can be applied to the 2023 SRTS program, some may be out of date, including those that mention local match requirements.
2021 Webinar Links
- Webinar Part 1: Safe Routes to School Grant Guidelines & Application Walk-Through
- Webinar Part 2: Q&A with IDOT Staff
Community Outreach (2021 Q&A)
Q: Considering Covid-19 restrictions, there are many schools that are not in full attendance. How do applicants provide recommended student tally, parents survey, walkability and bikeability checklist?
A: In lieu of tallies or surveys, you could conduct key stakeholder interviews – principal, crossing guards, PTA, police, student council – virtually to gather anecdotal/qualitative info. You could also conduct short site observations during arrival/dismissal (assuming students are physically attending) to document hazards and problems. See IDOT’s sample interview questionnaire as a template to document stakeholder interviews.
Q: Where can a community access online parent surveys and student tallies?
Q: Is a city able to administer the electronic Google surveys given to students on behalf of a school?
A: Yes, a city can do this on behalf of the school district as long as they have permission. Ideally, the school district and local government are working together on the application.
Q: If we applied last time, can we reuse letters of support?
A: We suggest you update the letters by at least connecting with the signatories and asking if you can refresh the date on the letters and if they are still in agreement with being supporters of your proposal.
Funding & GATA (2021 Q&A)
Q: Since these are federal pass through dollars does the program require a NEPA?
A: Per the SRTS Grant Guidelines: Except in unusual circumstances, most SRTS infrastructure projects will fall under categorical environmental exclusions that recognize construction of bicycle and pedestrian lanes, paths, and facilities as not involving significant environmental impacts. Where exclusions do not apply, projects are expected to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Please contact your IDOT District Local Roads office if you have questions about NEPA and your project.
Additional details from IDOT during webinar 2: Most SRTS projects are eligible for CE. IDOT will send a list of awarded projects to Design and Environment and will typically get CE for the entire list of projects. If that might be an issue for your project, talk to your IDOT District Local Roads Office.
Q: Does the $250,000 maximum award amount include the 20% local match?
A: Up to $250,000 can be awarded to a project. If the maximum of $250,000 is awarded, an additional $62,500 local match (20%) is required. The project can also be awarded funding as a portion of a larger project that costs more than the maximum award amount.
Q: If applicant and sponsor differ, who needs to be GATA compliant?
A: The sponsoring agency would need to be GATA-compliant
Q: What should be the proposed project term on the GATA uniform grant application?
A: Use a start date of 2022 and end date of 2025.
Q: I’m unable to download the GATA Program Risk Assessment on the IDOT/SRTS Website. Can you provide information on this?
A: Yes, download it and ignore the warning message. Email DOT.SafeRoutes@illinois.gov and they’ll help troubleshoot if you can’t download.
Engineering & Design (2021 Q&A)
Q: Can you clarify what is meant by Preliminary Engineering (PE)? Does this process require IDOT’s full Preliminary Engineering process?
A: Preliminary Engineering (PE) includes both Phase I & II Engineering. Both phases need to be completed within or around 6 months of the award announcement. More importantly though, all federal funds must be obligated within 18 months after the awards announcement.
Q: Is Preliminary Engineering (PE) eligible for SRTS funding?
A: No, the SRTS grant does not cover Preliminary Engineering (PE) costs. The grant covers Construction Costs and Construction Engineering, up to $250,000.
Q: Do both Phase I and Phase II engineering need to be completed within 6-months of the grant award?
A: IDOT would prefer that both are completed, but there is some wiggle room. The most important deadline is to complete the work/obligate funds by the 18-month deadline.
Q: Typically smaller communities will not authorize Preliminary Engineering (PE) until funding for the project is awarded. What should these communities do?
A: Preliminary Engineering (PE) can be completed 6 months after awards have been announced. If you need an additional month or two to complete PE, that is usually fine as long as IDOT is aware of the delay and knows engineering is advancing.
Q: In District 1, IDOT Design Approval for Preliminary Engineering typically takes longer than 6 months. How does this impact the project given the requirement to complete Preliminary Engineering in 6 months?
A: Contact your IDOT district local roads office to determine what is possible.
Q: Is a full Phase I study required or just a categorical exclusion? For Phase 2, are full construction plans required for sidewalk projects or can it be bid booklet format with standard details and project limits (similar to MFT resurfacing projects)?
A: Generally, the sidewalk plan should be complete, but it would depend on the project size. If it’s a small sidewalk section, standard details could be used. However, because of ADA, generally, you should have a full plan. If it’s a longer length of sidewalk, crossing multiple streets, or involving multiple sidewalks, both plans would be required. Check with your local roads district and see if they agree.
Q: Can funds spent on Phase I and II engineering be applied to the local match?
A: In some cases. Funds spent on PE I and PE II can be used for the local match if the following two criteria are met:
- 1) PE I and PE II are paid for AFTER the award date. The award date is the date the award letter goes out which will be about a week after the announcement. Please note, any PE costs incurred BEFORE the award date cannot be applied to the local match.
- 2) The funding source used for PE I and PE II is applicable as a local match source. For example, local government funding could be used, however, PE could NOT be counted towards your local match if it’s being paid for by another federal transportation fund.
Q: Does the engineer being hired have to go through procurement procedures?
A: Yes, if federal funds are paying for the engineering. If the cost of engineering is less than $40,000, it must be procured using federal small purchase rules. If it is over $40k, it has to go through the federal QBS process. The $40k limit is based on a state law related to QBS.
Q: Should the project be based on BDE or Bureau of Local Roads & Streets (BLRS) policy and procedures?
A: Talk to your local IDOT district – it will depend on the exact location of your project and improvement types.
Q: Can this funding be used for Phase III engineering?
A: Yes, it can be used for construction engineering and construction costs.
Q: Can additional work (e.g. resurfacing) be added within the SRTS project using MFT or local funds?
A: The projects would probably be handled separately. They may be able to split the costs out, but typically this wouldn’t be done. It might be timed with resurfacing, but work with your IDOT district on the specifics.
Eligibility & Project Selection (2021 Q&A)
Q: Can an applicant be a non-profit or other non-government entity?
A: Yes, the applicant can be almost anybody. Questions about the application, cost estimate, or project in general, the first contact will be with the applicant, so they’ll need to be able to answer questions about the application and project.
Q: Can a Park District apply for the grant when adjacent to a school site?
A: Yes, a Park District is an eligible project sponsor. It is important to be in close collaboration with the municipality/county/roadway jurisdiction and the school district and have documentation to support the relationship.
Q: Can more than one school be included in an application as long as they’re within 2-miles of each other? If this is the case, does the project need to be within 2-miles of either school or both?
- There can only be 1 application per school district.
- If you choose a school and there are other schools within a 2-mile radius of it, list those as impacted schools because IDOT will use all of those schools to determine the low-income and disabled population numbers.
- If 2 schools are within 2-miles of each other, if there is a small overlap, you could have a stretch of almost 4-miles. If they’re in the same district, you could include them as one project, but it’s not recommended. It probably would not score well. IDOT recommends splitting them up.
Q: What does one application per school district mean for a parochial or catholic school?
A: In this case, you can submit one application per school.
Q: Does the entire intersection need to be made ADA compliant or just the approach or side with new sidewalk?
A: IDOT would like to see all corners improved, including ADA compliance, but the applicant should contact their IDOT District local roads office to determine the extent of the scope required based on the project limits and local conditions.
Q: How would an applicant handle issues with tree roots in a resident’s yard causing issues with the sidewalks? Could the grant cover costs to remove trees?
A: The applicant should contact their IDOT District local roads office to determine what rights-of-way would be required. Tree removal is an eligible expense.
Q: For a sidewalk gap project, can there be several schools as long as the gaps are within 2 miles of each other?
A: Yes, several schools (or school districts) can be a part of the same application as long as the schools and projects are within a 2 mile radius of each other. Start at one school (K-8) and draw a 2-mile radius – that’s what can be included in the project.
Q: If a community has an open SRTS grant that is constructed but not closed out by IDOT, can they apply for a new SRTS grant?
Q: County DOT is considering a project that would install flashers throughout the county. Since this would affect various school districts, would we need to apply for each district separately? Or can we do one application for the entire County-led project? And does the award limit apply per district or per project in this case?
A: A separate application should be submitted locally for each school district with projects being located within 2-miles of an elementary or middle school.
Q: If we have two schools within a district but on different sides of town, would it be considered two projects if we decide to update the sidewalks? Or could that be one project?
A: The applicant needs to always keep in mind the 2-mile rule. If two schools in one community are further than 2 miles apart, they may need to submit two applications.
Q: Could a project’s size/length be shortened if needed – e.g. from 10 blocks of sidewalk to 8 blocks of sidewalk – because of costs? Could the project’s size be expanded?
A: Yes, a project’s scope could be reduced. Project expansion, however, is very unlikely. IDOT has a process in place where an applicant could request additional funds, but it would be very unlikely that IDOT would approve. They hope to award all the funds available.
Other (2021 Q&A)
Q: Do you have a sample governmental resolution?
A: No, because every local agency has their own format. Recommend using a local agency budget item resolution. Include: local agency will be responsible for any and all funding that’s required to complete the project, e.g., commit to the local match and other costs. Don’t need to include a specific dollar amount, so the recommendation is to commit to any funds required to complete the project.
Q: What are the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) requirements?
A: If you are in an MPO, any project chosen will have to be included in your MPO’s TIP. It doesn’t need to be included beforehand. If you’re in an MPO, make them aware that you’re submitting an application so they’re aware to include it in their TIP if it’s awarded.
Q: What if a community’s region does not have a TIP because they are not in an MPO?
A: If you are not in an MPO or RPC, you can disregard the TIP requirement. However, if you are in an MPO or RPC and you receive SRTS funding, your project needs to be included in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Call up your MPO or RPC to let them know you are applying and ask for a letter of support.
Q: For project concurrence from the MPO, can the letter of concurrence come from a local council or COG?
Q: Where should we submit letters of support?
A: You can submit them electronically with your application packet. Otherwise, they can also be sent to IDOT at the following address:
Illinois Department of Transportation
Safe Routes to School – Room 307
2300 South Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62764
Q: What is the maximum file size that can be uploaded?
A: Usually 10 MB. If it’s too large, there is a large file transfer link in the guidelines and the SRTS web page.
Q: When can we expect future SRTS calls for projects?
A: Every other year, typically in the fall.
Q: Is there any way to access past applications? Our municipality applied years ago. Would we be able to get a copy of our previous application?
A: Email DOT.SafeRoutes@Illinois.gov and they can see what is possible.
Other SRTS Programming Resources
Safe Routes to School zeros in on making walking and bicycling to and from school safe, convenient and fun. This international movement improves the health and well-being of children, families and school employees as it fosters liveable, sustainable communities and reduces automobile congestion.
The Active Transportation Alliance advocates for policies at the state level that support walkable and bikeable schools. See the below links for helpful Safe Routes resources:
International Walk to School Day – register your event and gain access to free, downloadable resources.
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) National Partnership’s State Network Project brings together state leaders to remove barriers to walking and bicycling to and from school. The Partnership’s 2010–2011 report (PDF) includes policy successes, lessons learned and local success stories that were a result of policy changes led by the 20 state network coalitions, including Illinois.
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