FILE - Illinois school bus, masks, students, 2020

Elementary school students sit on board a school bus after attending in-person classes at school in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Department of Transportation announced it is seeking proposals for projects that will help children walk and bike to school.

It is called the Safe Routes to School program and aims to support projects that improve safety and reduce traffic in areas around elementary and middle schools.

Spokesperson Maria Castaneda says projects can include new sidewalks or speed monitoring systems to slow down traffic in school areas. She adds that federal grants totaling $12 million will cover most of the costs.

“It is an 80/20 match, so it 80% federal dollars but there does have to be a 20% local match on this,” Castaneda said.

Some of the past project include new sidewalks and crossing improvements in the Village of Cary, a raised crossing and a solar powered speed feedback sign near a middle school in Kankakee, and sidewalk repairs and pedestrian signal upgrades in DeKalb County.

IDOT said successful applications must demonstrate how the projects will encourage students to walk or bike. Eligible applicants include school districts, local governments, planning organizations and nonprofit associations.

“Children who walk or bike to school from and early age have a leg up on creating an active, healthy lifestyle that benefits both them and the environment,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Omar Osman said.

For information, go to idot.illinois.gov or email DOT.SafeRoutes@Illinois.gov.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 30 and the awards will be announced early next year.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.