Traffic safety grants flow to local governments

The Associated Press - February 1, 2023 8:46 am

By DAVID A. LIEB Associated Press

(AP) — Hundreds of cities and counties across the U.S. will receive a share of over $800 million in federal grants to improve the safety of streets and intersections, under funding announced on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The competitive grants include nearly $590 million to carry out 37 projects making physical safety improvements to roadways in 22 states, including Oklahoma. An additional nearly $213 million is being distributed in smaller increments for hundreds of traffic safety planning efforts across the country.

The grants are the first under the Safe Streets and Roads for All program, which ultimately will provide $5 billion over five years. The program was part of the federal infrastructure law passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.

Grants generally are intended to promote safety for multiple roadway users, including motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

In Oklahoma, just over $21 million is being requested by the Indian Nations Council of Governments, a metropolitan planning organization, along with other joint applicants, including the cities of Owasso, Jenks, and Broken Arrow. The applicants are seeking funding for a project titled “Travel with Care – Tulsa: Safe Streets for All Implementation Grant.”

The Oklahoma applicants say they will take a systemic approach to improving safety with low-cost, high-impact, rural and urban projects across the region. The overall project is focused on making intersections safer, mostly using Proven Safety Countermeasures, and include upgrading traffic signal backplates, incorporating flashing yellow arrow traffic signal heads, installing advanced warning signage for signalized intersections, adding enhanced stop-controlled intersection signage, upgrading stop-controlled intersections to LED stop signs, posting mounted speed feedback signs, establishing mid-block crossings, and installing rectangular rapid-flash beacons at pedestrian crossings. The applicants report that intersections are among the most significant safety problems, and are where 71% of fatal and serious injury crashes occurred.

Local governments are also requesting planning grants. The 473 planning grants range from $6,263 for Mekoryuk, Alaska — population around 200 — to more than $6.3 million for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. California leads the way with 43 planning grants totaling more than $25 million, followed by 34 planning grants totaling $19 million in Florida and 25 such grants totaling nearly $17 million in Texas.

Over $1.8 million has been requested for planning grants in Oklahoma, for projects in Guthrie, Oklahoma City, the Caddo Nation, central Oklahoma, and Mayes County.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said the U.S. faces a “national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways.”

Nearly 43,000 people are estimated to have died in vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 — an increase of nearly one-third over the past decade, according to data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Data for the entirety of 2022 is not yet available, but estimates for the first nine months indicate that fatal traffic crashes appear to have leveled off or declined slightly. Still, they are significantly higher than levels that existed before the coronavirus pandemic.

Among states, estimated traffic fatalities in the first three-quarters of 2022 rose by the largest percentage in Hawaii, Delaware, Nebraska, Washington, and Alaska. Traffic fatalities were down by the greatest rate in South Dakota and Rhode Island.

There will be more grants in coming years, including a new round of applications that’s expected to open in April.


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