News Brief

No More New Schools Near Highways in New York

With the SIGH Act, New York State is addressing unjust siting of schools near major roadways.

New York highway sign display

The SIGH Act prohibits building schools near highways in the state of New York.

Photo: Famartin. License: CC BY 4.0.
Air pollution near schools negatively affects students’ health and learning. That problem is being addressed in New York State with the SIGH Act (Schools Impacted by Gross Highways), which has passed the State Senate and Assembly, and is waiting to be signed by the governor.

The legislation prohibits (with exceptions) siting of new schools within 500 feet of a controlled-access highway, addressing what some groups have identified as an environmental injustice. A third of students in the state attend schools near a highway, and approximately 80% of those attending these schools are students of color, according to an analysis by the ACLU of New York.

Subsequent legislation being pushed by ACLU of New York would prohibit development of new highways near existing schools and address air quality at existing schools through funding for ventilation, filtration, and plantings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published advice for mitigating the effects of outdoor air pollution in existing schools and also offers extensive siting guidelines for new schools.

Published September 6, 2022

Melton, P. (2022, August 23). No More New Schools Near Highways in New York. Retrieved from

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September 12, 2022 - 5:07 pm

I like step 1 - no new schools near highways. I like step 2 - possible future legislation on no new highways near schools (makes a ton of sense, yes?). I hope that a third process comes from this - Something along the lines of what many cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, are undertaking, and that is the removal and/or reduction of highways that have adversely impacted the communities near them.

Just from the gut - I bet there are a ton of underutilized and aging-out limited-access highways and ramps that could be made obsolete by investments where we want the investments to focus: on carbon free public transit, multi-modal city centers (perhaps car restricted), and carbon free transportation of goods.

Wouldn't it be great if we could trigger a true community-based study of these existing, often bohemoth constructions for cars when a school or a park or a grocery store or a community-focused developer wants to invest?