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One Year Later: Updates on Safe Routes to School Legislation

by Kealana Almeida

Act 244 (2023) was passed to address the alarming rise in traffic fatalities and injuries in Hawaiʻi, many of which occur within or near school zones. Nearly one year after signing Act 244 into law, significant progress has been made with the recent appointment of community members to the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) advisory committee. 

Governor Josh Green has appointed members with various areas of expertise to sit on the SRTS advisory committee. Jessica Thompson, the Safe, Accessible, and Inclusive Mobility Program Manager of Hawai‘i Public Health Institute (HIPHI), has been appointed to the advisory committee to represent an organization focusing on public health and mobility. Tommy Noyes of Kaua‘i PATH has been appointed to the advisory committee to represent an organization focusing on bicycling. James Burke of AARP has been appointed to the advisory committee to represent an organization focusing on older adultssenior citizens. Finally, Jeanne Torres of Guide Dogs of Hawaiʻi has been appointed to the advisory committee, which focuses on transportation equity and mobility. That still leaves an opening for representation for an organization that understands how families with young children navigate the state. The SRTS advisory committee is set to convene for the first time on July 1, 2024, with a minimum of monthly meetings expected to follow. 

In addition to the SRTS advisory committee, Act 244 aims to develop strategies, facilitate infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects to enhance SRTS projects, and appropriate funds – including $10 million annually in FY 2024 and 2025 – to prioritize SRTS programs and projects throughout the state.

The SRTS advisory committee is tasked with developing and implementing a comprehensive statewide plan to help make walking and biking to school safer for Hawai‘i’s students. Some of the committee’s expectations include coordinating with various stakeholders, advising on best practices for program implementation, allocating funds, and reviewing and selecting priority project proposals. The advisory committee membership will include representatives from various government agencies and community stakeholders. 

One of the most promising aspects of the new legislation is the emphasis on the stability and distribution of the SRTS program special fund. This fund, sourced from traffic violation surcharges, is the primary source of funding for current SRTS programs. However, since the legislature was allocated responsibility for the special fund distribution in 2021, significant delays have led to a halt in the distribution of SRTS special fund money since 2020. This has adversely affected many counties’ ongoing SRTS projects and developments. The reallocation of responsibility to the SRTS advisory committee brings renewed hope that these vital funds will soon be effectively managed and distributed, ensuring the continuation and development of essential SRTS initiatives.

This momentous legislation would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of a growing active transportation and mobility justice advocatesʻ network. We look forward to sharing future successes of the SRTS movement building in future newsletters. 

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

Program Manager: Safe, Accessible and Inclusive Mobility (SAIM)
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