The US Transportation Secretary Cautions States on Road Projects

Car users are not the only road users prone to traffic fatalities; motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are also at risk. According to statistics, pedestrians account for almost one-third of all traffic deaths in the United States. In addition, data shows that 38,824 people died in road collisions in 2020, with motorcyclists and bicyclists most at risk of fatal accidents.

“The goal of an effective transportation system is not to protect only car drivers but rather all road users,” says Attorney John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. The government has cautioned states seeking funds to widen roads to prioritize the safety of walkers and bicyclists or risk losing funds. This caution is timely, judging by the number of pedestrians and bicyclists who get injured or lose their lives through accidents.

Why the Caution for States Seeking Billions of Funds Under Infrastructure Law?

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the warning will help prioritize the safety and well-being of all users of modern roads, including persons using public transportation, electric scooters, and Uber pick-ups, as well as delivery drivers.

Additionally, there will be prioritization in money distribution for projects like bike paths, traffic roundabouts, improved sidewalks, pedestrian walkways to bus stops, and transit lanes. This will also shift the long-held focus of the state. 

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Most states focus on building vehicle lanes to relieve traffic congestion and boost speed, frequently at the expense of primarily nonwhite neighborhoods living near busy roads. Cities that have struggled to secure funds to build out green-friendly transit choices will benefit from the change. 

The Complete Streets Strategy

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) endorses complete streets as the default strategy for designing most federally funded roadways in the United States. Instead of focusing on car speed and traffic flow, the complete streets initiative focuses on the safety and mobility of all road users.

After many years of prioritizing vehicle traffic, these initiatives present an opportunity to make streets usable and enjoyable for everyone, not just those in cars. The establishment of complete streets policies is at the state, regional, and local levels. The road design guidelines typically back them up.

The approach to Complete Streets differs depending on the community. Potential elements could include walkways, bike lanes, bus lanes, public transportation stops, crossing possibilities, and a median island. Additionally, Complete Streets also cover easily accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, modified vehicle travel lanes, streetscape, and landscape treatments.

The Essence of Complete Streets Strategy

Complete streets are designed and operated to allow all road users to move safely and comfortably. Road users include people of all ages and abilities, whether driving, walking, bicycling, or using public transportation. The strategy focuses on individuals whose needs have not been satisfied by traditional transportation methods, which prioritized vehicles over other road users.

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This group of individuals includes older adults, people with impairments, and people without access to vehicles. Complete Streets is a concept that incorporates many techniques for planning, building, and operating roadways. The initiative also consists of rights of way with all users in mind to make the transportation system safer and more efficient.

Complete Streets will reduce motor vehicle-related collisions, pedestrian risk, and bicycling risk by integrating properly designed, bicycle-specific infrastructure. Cities can encourage walking and bicycling by offering safer spaces for people to engage in physical activity through transportation. The adoption of the Complete Streets concept by the FHWA would improve the safety of all road users. Generally, this will halt the upward trend in fatal injuries, resulting in a healthier and safer transportation system as well as benefitting the environment. 

The Five Focus Areas of the Complete Streets

The Complete Streets design approach will tackle increasing traffic fatalities by integrating measures that limit speeds. The approach is a vital part of the FHWA implementation of the US Department of Transportation National Roadway Safety Strategy.

The FHWA Complete Streets program will focus on five opportunity areas to fulfill its objectives:

  • Improve data collecting and analysis to improve user safety;
  • Help prioritize safety objectives across all project types by supporting comprehensive safety assessments during project planning and design;
  • Increase the adoption of standards and guidelines that enhance user safety and accessibility while also encouraging design innovation;
  • Emphasize the importance of safety for all users in the interpretation of design standards, guidelines, and project review processes ; and
  • Make Complete Streets the FHWA default method for funding and designing non-access-controlled roads.
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The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG)

In addition to the Complete Streets effort, the Department of Transportation will use the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) to collaborate closely with states. The aim is to increase awareness in the community on various topics, such as the money available for safety in formula funds.

The Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) program offers localities flexible funding for projects. These funds are for maintaining and improving conditions and performance on any federally funded highway, bridge, and tunnel projects on any public road. In addition, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and transit capital projects, including intercity bus terminals, are part of the maintenance and improvement efforts.

The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) of the United States Department of Transportation is the most flexible of all federal roadway programs. It encourages local transportation decisions to be flexible by giving recipients broad freedom to use funds where necessary to achieve state and local transportation priorities. As a result, flexible funding is available to meet regional and local transportation demands. 

Final Thought

There is a steady rise in fatalities resulting from accidents on highways, including pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and transit riders of various ages and abilities. The need for safety on the road is more urgent than ever before. Implementing the Complete Streets method of planning, developing, and constructing streets will help ensure safe access for all road users. 

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