100+ schools undergo safety upgrades via Austin’s ‘Safe Routes to School’ program | #schoolsaftey

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Safe Routes to School program has completed improvements at more than 100 schools in the city’s jurisdiction, with a goal to hit all 137 schools in the city’s jurisdiction by late 2024, program leadership told city officials at a mobility committee meeting Thursday.

Of the more than 100 schools already attended to, over 400 projects have been completed. Those tend to center on enhancing mobility to allow students and their families to safely walk or bike to campus, with upgrades including sidewalks, curb ramps, shared-use paths, bike facilities and trails.

Safe Routes to School comprises four programs, including the city’s nearly 200-crossing guard network that services almost 100 schools in Austin. Elsewhere in its coverage scope is its infrastructure program, born out of 2016 Austin Mobility bond dollars.

The infrastructure program received $27.5 million to be divvied up equally among Austin’s 10 council districts to address and mitigate safety issues near school campuses. It later received an additional $20 million in 2020 to address excess safety issues and barriers identified, with $1 million of that going toward charter schools located in areas that historically had lower socioeconomic statuses, program officials said.

Coleen Gentles, infrastructure manager for Safe Routes to School, told committee members an infrastructure report identified more than 4,600 project requests, to the tune of $825 million. However, she stressed those financial estimates were conducted off 2019 figures, with costs significantly higher now.

When prioritizing projects, Gentles said very high and high-priority projects rise to the top, along with projects that benefit multiple school campuses. In addition to its allocated bond dollars, Safe Routes to School also leans on its partnerships with entities like CapMetro, city-run departments and programs and local school districts to help leverage funds.

In total, Safe Routes to School’s coverage area includes 137 campuses across seven ISDs located in the City of Austin’s jurisdiction, Gentles said.

Among its current list of projects, Gentles added the program is expected to substantially complete all of them by late 2027 or early 2028.

Residents can check out funded and recommended projects located near them using this online mapping tool.

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