Creating genuinely effective improvements to Florida’s Hazardous Walking Conditions statute has proven elusive, largely because proposals have been too costly and they essentially generated unfunded mandates for local school districts. Concerns over those two considerations have resulted in half-measure proposals that were still too costly and cumbersome for the state and for local school districts.
We’ve taken a new approach to the issue by tackling the statute from the ground up and making improvements throughout. The result is a bill that we’re proposing to the Florida legislature that contains a sensible criteria that is considerate of the state budget and doesn’t impose new requirements on local school districts.
Local Control to Eliminate the Adverse Impact of the Change:
- Permit school districts the option to transport students who live within 2 miles but don’t otherwise qualify for transportation service, but with no state funding contribution.
- Provide school districts the discretion to transport students around hazardous walking conditions with a state funding contribution or not.
Practical and Realistic Hazardous Walking Conditions Criteria:
- Proposed eligibility criteria is anchored to revised “reasonable walking distance of 1.25 miles versus 2 miles.
- Proposed hazardous walking conditions criteria applicable to students of all ages.
- Proposed criteria for a safe and suitable walkway set as 5 foot width versus 4 feet width (per Florida Greenbook standards).
- Proposed criteria states that whether a crossing site is controlled or uncontrolled, roads consisting of more than two lanes of traffic and have a posted speed limit of 35 mph or greater should be considered hazardous for students.
- Proposed criteria states that a crossing site where it is likely that student pedestrians would encounter traffic turning from left turn lanes, lanes where a right turn on red is authorized, and free flow right turn lanes should be considered hazardous for students.
- Proposed statute language clearly states that no part of a drainage ditch or any part of any other stormwater runoff facility or system, including side slopes, is a suitable walkway for students.
- Proposed criteria states that students not be required to cross a roadway between intersections or outside of marked crosswalks in order to acquire a safe walkway parallel to the road.
- Proposed criteria states that railroad crossings, bridges, and overpasses that lack paved walkways are not suitable walkways for students.
- Proposal states that the walking route utilized in calculating eligibility for transportation should be used in the application of the hazardous walking conditions criteria.
- Proposed criteria eliminates the requirement to include a law enforcement representative in the process of identifying and certifying a hazardous segment.
- Proposed language allows state hazardous walker transportation funding to be claimed for as long as the hazardous condition exists and the district transports students around it.
- No new fiscal obligations for local school districts.
- At their option, local school districts can reduce their hazardous transportation footprint and costs.
- Reduce the “reasonable walking distance” from 2 miles to 1.25 miles (2 miles isn’t a “reasonable” distance).
- Establish 2 miles as the “transportation service boundary.”
- There are quite a lot of students who reside between 1.25 and 2 miles from school who would not be considered for a state hazardous funding contribution under the proposal; that appears to balance the proposal’s addition of eligible students who reside within 1.25 miles of school.