WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is spending $ 5 billion on federal aid to tackle a growing crisis by slowing car speeds, building bike paths and widening sidewalks and moving commuters in public transit, amid growing data on rising traffic deaths.
Transportation Secretary Pete Butigig on Monday announced the availability of funds within five years under his department’s new Safe Streets and Roads for All program.
The goal is to provide those communities with a direct supply of federal cash that promises to promote the safety of multiple users of a road, especially pedestrians and cyclists.
Federal data released this week by the Department of Transportation is expected to show another big jump in U.S. traffic deaths by 2021, reflecting the continuing risky driving that began with the coronavirus epidemic in March 2020. The death toll among pedestrians and cyclists is rising faster than inside. Vehicles
Deaths are also disproportionately among black, low-income people, who are more likely to take public transit and travel on foot or by bike, as well as in tribal and rural areas, where high speeds may be higher.
“We are facing a national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, and these tragedies are preventable – so we as a nation must work urgently and cooperatively to save our lives,” Butigig said. He said the money “would help communities large and small to take action to protect all Americans on our streets.”
“We have become much more accustomed to being killed and seriously injured on our roads,” he said.
In anticipation of upcoming data, Steven Cliff, acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at an event last week that the final figures would show “alarming” growth for the full year of 2021.
Road deaths in 2020 represent approximately 95% of all U.S. transportation deaths, more than 38,000 in 2020. In 2021, the number of U.S. traffic deaths in the third quarter already rose to 31,720, the highest in nine months since 2006. Before 2020, the number of U.S. traffic deaths decreased for three consecutive years.
The department’s efforts are part of a new national strategy, launched in January, to curb the record increase in road accidents through a “safe measure” approach that promotes improved road design, lower speed limits and stricter vehicle safety rules. About $ 5 million to $ 6 million in grants are included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law.
Still, much of the federal roadmap depends on the cooperation of cities and states, and it may take months to fully implement it with clear results – it is too late to appease voters by 2022, which is plagued by this and other epidemic-related illnesses. Crime.
The latest U.S. guidelines Monday called on cities and territories to draw up security plans for their applications for federal grants, which will be released later this year.
It cites examples of good projects that promise to transform a high-crash roadway, such as adding a rumble strip to a slow car or installing a speed camera, which the department says police can enforce more fairly than traffic stops; Flashing beacons for pedestrian crosswalks; New “safe routes” through sidewalks or other safer routes to school or public transit to disadvantaged communities; And other “quick build” road changes designed with community input.
Butigig was traveling to Germany later Monday to discuss the best way to achieve the UN goal of halving world traffic deaths by 2030. About 1.25 million people worldwide die on the streets each year. Despite the low number of cars on the road during the epidemic, the U.S. was largely an outsider in increasing the number of traffic deaths, partly because of the fast pace and not wearing seatbelts in the United States.
Michael Kelly, policy director at BikeWalkCasey, a roadway safety advocacy group in Kansas City, Missouri, says he favors biking and walking routes because his two young women love to walk outside but can’t do it safely because of the lack of sidewalks and seating around them. Near a highway.
Kelly, who is Black, said communities can become more vibrant and more connected by nurturing walkable neighborhoods that allow older people who can’t drive easily, such as her parents, to “age” a younger generation like her daughters. Increasingly another safe and affordable transportation option is available if a car “doesn’t want to drive or needs to”.
“Everyone deserves to be able to walk, cycle, take transit and be a safe and easy choice,” Kelly said.
Butigig stressed the urgency.
“I’m sure we can use this moment, this urgent and problematic moment, as a pivot point,” he said. “We’re ready to fund what we’re going to do directly to reduce accidents and save lives so we can change the course of road safety this decade.”