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September 13, 2011 > Safe routes to schools Program clears hurdle

Safe routes to schools Program clears hurdle

Submitted By Tess Lengyel

On August 31, 2011, the Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools Program cleared a final hurdle to begin an expanded county-wide program in alignment with the beginning of the school year. The Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) has a long-standing commitment to the Safe Routes to Schools (SR2S) Program, which has reached almost 150 schools throughout the county, supporting an aggressive roll-out since 2007.

The expanded program will include high schools, infrastructure improvements that improve safety at schools and a program that educates school staff and parents to use alternative modes of transportation. The creation of the Alameda CTC in July 2010, through a merger of two county-wide transportation agencies, has expedited delivery of programs such as the Alameda County SR2S Program.

Twenty-five percent of morning congestion in Alameda County is attributable to the school-run. The Alameda CTC has focused its SR2S program on educating and encouraging children to walk and cycle to school through walking, school buses, bicycle education and safety training and parent- and student-coordinated education efforts. The result is an overall shift of 10 percent away from cars to modes including walking, biking and carpooling, affirming the SR2S program's efficacy. The success of the original four-year program stems from a rigorous, goal-oriented team effort by Alameda CTC staff, its Commissioners and the team who helped to implement the program, TransForm, and committed parents, teachers and elected officials throughout the county.

The expanded SR2S program is made possible by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's (MTC) creation of a regional Climate Initiatives Program, which has made federal funding for SR2S available to all Bay Area Counties. In February 2010, the Alameda CTC developed a program through community collaboration that focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting walking, biking, transit and carpooling to school and submitted the program to the MTC in July 2010. MTC approved $3.2M in federal funds for Alameda CTC to implement the expanded Alameda County SR2S program. This funding is being matched with $420,000 in Measure B transportation sales tax funds, bringing the total program budget to $3.64M.

Through a competitive bidding process, Alameda CTC selected a consultant team comprised of local business firm (Alta Planning & Design) and several sub-consultants, including TransForm, in late June 2011. The consultant contract is substantially financed by federal funds; consequently, the federal and state governments require the consultant contract be subjected to a financial audit by the state to protect the public's financial interest. This process can be time-consuming; work cannot begin and federal funds may not be spent until the audit's completion.

In July 2010, the Alameda CTC was formally created from the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency (ACCMA), which was responsible for administering state and federal funds at the county-level, and the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA), which was responsible for implementing the county's transportation sales tax measure. By combining the two agencies, coordination and collaboration on the SR2S program development and the use of federal and local matching funds was streamlined. In addition, the state audit review process was expedited by the effective coordination between the Alameda CTC and the state.

The Alameda CTC has seen on-going efficiencies as a result of the merger. For example, the Commission's first consolidated budget for the FY 2011-12 reflects more than $3M in savings to the taxpayer. In a time of diminishing revenues, the Alameda CTC is streamlining operations and eliminating redundancies.

"The merger of two county-wide transportation agencies in Alameda County is saving taxpayers more than $3M while providing uninterrupted services through improved strategic planning, effective funding decisions and on-going project and program implementation. These savings go directly to transportation projects and operations, supporting jobs and mobility. The public expects and deserves these efficiencies and the Alameda CTC is delivering them," said Alameda CTC's Chair, Mark Green, Mayor of Union City.

The streamlined review of the SR2S program through the state auditing process is an example of how Alameda CTC continues to effectively deliver transportation solutions in Alameda County.

For more information about the Alameda County Transportation Commission and transportation projects funded by the half-cent sales tax in Alameda County, visit www.AlamedaCTC.org

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