States warned to prioritize roadway safety or risk losing infrastructure funding: report
The Department of Transportation has warned states that they must prioritize roadway safety or risk losing funds from the bipartisan infrastructure package signed into law last year.
In a report to Congress obtained by The Associated Press, the Department of Transportation said it would be prioritizing the safety of all users of a typical modern-day roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists and those who use public transport.
“Safety is DOT’s top priority,” the report read.
According to the AP, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a congressional hearing Wednesday that he would consider safety, among other factors, in awarding billions of dollars in grants.
“When it comes to discretionary grants … safety, state of good repair, economic strength, resilience — these are national priorities, and administration priorities, and things that will certainly guide me within the parameters of the law in our decisions,” he said, per the wire service.
In its report, the Department of Transportation discussed challenges to ensuring that states build roadway safety features, such as the limited data showing their effectiveness in protecting non-motorists and differing interpretations of federal guidance.
Among the challenges, the department also listed the long-time focus by state and local agencies on using federal funding to reduce traffic congestion, sometimes to the detriment of safety and other factors.
In one example, the department said that a state transportation department insisted on significantly widening a road as part of a transit project, adding substantial cost and negatively impacting pedestrians and nearby property owners. The AP noted that adding lanes to improve congestion has often come at the expense of largely non-white communities residing near busy roadways.
Despite the challenges, the report said leadership at both the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are committed to having “a positive impact on the safety of all roadway users – reversing the trend of increasing fatal and serious injuries and creating a healthier, greener, and more equitable surface transportation system.”
In January, the White House issued a guidebook to help state and local governments access funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law. The “one-stop-shop,” as the White House referred to it, included information on the more than 375 programs that the law will fund.
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