School Access Improvement Study released

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sponsored by: Department of Land Use and Transportation, Planning and Development Services Division

A study of the roadways surrounding 53 Washington County public schools has identified safety concerns on routes that students use to walk, bike or roll to school.

The Washington County School Access Improvement Study was presented to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday [March 15]. The study, a part of the County's Safe Routes to School Program, provides the first comprehensive look at the extent of traffic infrastructure barriers that prevent or limit students' ability to walk to school safely.

"This study allows us to create a road map for how to address these barriers," said Andrew Singelakis, director of Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation. "From here, we need to identify funding sources, how to prioritize projects and how to implement them." 

The County started its Safe Routes to School program in 2013 with a grant from the ODOT Transportation Safety Division. The national initiative brings transportation, community and educations leaders together to encourage children to walk and bike safely to school as part of a healthy daily routine.

Traffic safety improvements identified in the study vary by school and include sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalk treatments and trails. Possible funding sources may include Gain Share allocations, Urban Road Maintenance District safety funds, grants and levies. 

"Many schools are in older neighborhoods built before sidewalks were required," Singelakis said. "As a result, the costs of improvements are higher at some schools than others. We need to be clear: we're focusing on safety. Our concern is making sure that all students have equally safe routes to school." 

How projects are prioritized is also something that's under review. Singelakis said input and collaboration with school districts and individual schools will be key elements. 

"Traffic infrastructure is just one piece of Safe Routes to School," he said. "Safe Routes to School is about education and encouragement, which requires the involvement of educators, community organizations and parents to be successful." 

The County has been working with school partners to develop Safe Routes to School Action Plans (SAC), which involve assessment of student travel modes, parent attitude, route mapping, identification of physical barriers and data collection. SACs are one way schools can demonstrate a commitment to safety and health issues.

"Developing an action plan is a coordinated undertaking," Singelakis said. "But it sends a strong message to students and their parents that both safety and healthy routines are important. It's a way for local government, parents, schools and students to proactively address the issue." 

The County will be sharing the study with the Washington County Coordinating Committee and community groups and will be exploring funding opportunities.

Washington County is committed to working with our partner agencies in planning, building and maintaining a great transportation system, ensuring the safety of all roadway users, and operating the County roadway system in a cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.

Media Contact:

Melissa De Lyser, Communications Coordinator