Buttigieg sends $5 billion to cities for safety as road deaths soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — As upcoming data shows road deaths soar, the Biden administration is directing $5 billion in federal aid to cities and towns to address the growing crisis by slowing cars , digging wider bike lanes and sidewalks and pushing commuters to public transport.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday announced the availability of five-year funding under his department’s new Safe Streets & Roads for All program.

The goal will be to provide a direct injection of federal funds to communities that are committed to promoting the safety of multiple road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.

Federal data released this week by the Department of Transportation is expected to show another significant increase in U.S. road deaths through 2021, reflecting continued risky driving that began with the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Deaths among pedestrians and cyclists have increased faster than those inside vehicles.

Deaths are also disproportionately higher among low-income non-white people, who are more likely to take public transit and walk or bike, as well as those in tribal and rural areas, where speeding may be more common.

“We are facing a national crisis of deaths and serious injuries on our roads, and these tragedies are preventable – so as a nation we must work urgently and collaboratively to save lives,” Buttigieg said. He said the money will “help communities large and small take action to protect all Americans on our roads.”

“We have become far too used to the loss of life and serious injury that occurs on our roads,” he said.

Previewing the data to come, Steven Cliff, the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at an event last week that the final numbers would show “alarming” increases for the whole of 2021. .

Road deaths account for approximately 95% of all transportation deaths in the United States, or more than 38,000 in 2020. In 2021, data released to date has already shown that the number of road deaths in United States reached 31,720 in the third quarter, the highest nine-month period since 2006. Before 2020, the number of road deaths in the United States had fallen for three consecutive years.

The ministry’s effort is part of a new national strategy, launched in January, to stem the record rise in road deaths through a “safe system” approach that promotes better road design, limits lower speed limits and stricter car safety regulations. About $5-6 million for grants are included in President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Act.

Yet much of the federal roadmap relies on the cooperation of cities and states, and its full implementation could take months or even years with noticeable results — too late to appease mid-term voters. term of 2022 disrupted by this and other pandemic-related ills, such as increased crime.

The latest U.S. guidelines on Monday call on cities and towns to outline safety plans in their applications for federal grants, which are due by the end of this year.

He cites examples of good projects like those that promise to transform a roadway with a high accident rate, for example by adding rumble strips to slow cars or installing speed cameras, which the department says could provide more application. fair than police checks; flashing beacons for pedestrian crossings; new “safe routes” via sidewalks or other protected routes to school or public transit in underserved communities; and other “quick-build” road changes designed with community input.

Buttigieg was traveling to Germany later on Monday for the International Transport Forum to discuss the best approaches to achieving the UN’s goal of halving the number of road traffic deaths worldwide by 2030. About 1.25 million people are killed on the road every year worldwide. The United States has mainly been an exception in seeing road deaths increase during the pandemic, even with fewer cars on the road, in part due to higher rates of speeding in the United States and the no -wearing the seat belt.

Michael Kelley, policy director of road safety advocacy group BikeWalkKC in Kansas City, Missouri, says he advocated for bike and walking routes because his two young daughters like to explore outdoors but can’t. do so safely as their neighborhood lacks sidewalks and sits near a highway.

Kelley, who is black, said communities can become vibrant and more connected by fostering walkable neighborhoods that allow seniors who don’t drive easily, like her parents, to “age in place” near a younger generation, like their daughters, who increasingly “don’t want or need to drive” a car if there are other safe and affordable means of transport.

“Everyone deserves to be able to walk, ride a bike, take public transit, and have it be the safe and easy choice,” Kelley said.

Buttigieg stressed the urgency.

“I’m confident that we can use this moment, this urgent and unsettling moment, as a pivot,” he said. “We’re ready to fund whatever will most directly help reduce crashes and save lives so we can change the trajectory of road safety this decade.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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