San Bernardino – Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes and the County of San Bernardino announce that the California Transportation Commission has voted to approve funding for the Muscoy Area Safe Routes to School Pedestrian Improvements Project. This funding will come from the state’s Active Transportation Program (ATP) Cycle 5 and will provide the project with a $1.88 million grant. The grant will be matched with funding from the County of San Bernardino.
The approval of the funding for the project represents the culmination of several years’ worth of collaborative efforts to improve the area. The project was first conceived at the “DREAM BIG IE” Youth Empowerment Summit hosted by Majority Leader Reyes in 2017. At the summit, parents and students from Muscoy advocated for improved sidewalks and safer route infrastructure around the two elementary schools: Vermont Elementary and Muscoy Elementary.
A community partnership was formed at the summit to ensure that Muscoy’s children and their families could safely walk to and from school. This promise led to the formation of the student-led group known as SOAR IE, which created a diverse coalition known as the Sidewalks for Muscoy Coalition. This coalition consisted of community members working together to improve the sidewalks, crosswalks, and other infrastructure around the schools.
“The idea for this project came from high school students who used to walk to school in Muscoy. I honor their work, and I am so proud that they have worked with us to make it a reality. Our community deserves safer routes to school,” said Majority Leader Eloise Reyes.
“When walking the streets of my community, I’m afraid of what can happen, I’ve seen how kids struggle to walk on our streets, risking getting hurt because of a lack of sidewalks,” said former Vermont student Angela Loera.
“The County is proud to receive this grant and we are eager to get to work on these projects,” said San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “People deserve to feel safe when they walk through their neighborhoods. We are thankful to be part of a collaborative effort.”
The Sidewalks for Muscoy Coalition served as the initial wave of improvements for the Muscoy community. The coalition rallied their community as they built sample crosswalks, bus shelters, and curb extensions using funding from Southern California’s Association of Government’s (SCAG) Go Human Campaign.
This initial collaborative effort led by SOAR IE would in turn become the Muscoy Safe Area Routes To School Pedestrian Improvements Project, which sought out and received a commitment from the County Public Works to make streets safer for residents to walk and bike. By 2019 the coalition was hosting events such as the first “Walk to School Day” for National Clean Air Day to promote safe routes.
In 2020, the San Bernardino County Public Works Department submitted the Muscoy Area Safe Routes to School Pedestrian Improvement Project for funding consideration for 2021 under the state’s Active Transportation Program. The funding will allow the project to upgrade existing crosswalks to more visible ladder-style crosswalks; install pedestrian flashing beacons, signage, red curbs, and sidewalks.
“When I went to the Youth Empowerment Summit, the Assemblymember asked for legislative ideas. We suggested protection for our siblings who attend elementary school in Muscoy. Assemblymember Reyes believed in our idea, and now we are excited to see the idea become a reality,” said SOAR IE member Guadalupe Tellez.
After unsuccessfully applying for a similar project in Cycle 4 of the Active Transportation Project, the Department of Public Works improved the application this year by adding more safety improvements and agreeing to a collaboration with the Department of Public Health and local CBO Mental Health Systems to provide educational and encouragement programming.
The Safe Routes Partnership assisted the applicants with the application process, which is well known for its difficulty. The Active Transportation Program is heavily oversubscribed, with fewer than 11% of applications funded in most cycles. “Let Muscoy's victory serve as a reminder of the urgent need to prioritize funding in environmental justice communities and rural communities of color across the Inland Empire and the state,” said Demi Espinoza from the Safe Routes Partnership. Jonathan Matz, also from the Safe Routes Partnership, added: “We’re incredibly proud of the agencies, NGOs, and most importantly community members who worked so hard to make this application stand out among the hundreds that were submitted. It’s a testimony to the need for safe walking infrastructure in Muscoy, and the community’s unity behind achieving it.”
Ultimately, the Muscoy Area Safe Routes to School Pedestrian Improvements Project represents what can be achieved through collaboration.
“If we want to improve the quality of life in a particular community, we cannot pretend to know what's best. The only way to do it is to bring the community together and ask "What do you need? How can we help?" And only then can we work together toward a goal of making life easier and better for the community. In this case, it was the students and then the parents who voiced the dream for Muscoy. And they helped make it come true.” .said Majority Leader Eloise Reyes.
“Margaret Mead once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ This quote defines Muscoy, a community of leaders that refuses to give up, engaged in collaborative dialogue to create a vision of a better future that includes safer conditions for youth en route to school. A job well done,” said Mirza Martinez, Mental Health System prevention specialist.