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New Federal Law Requires Some States to Improve Biking and Walking Safety - Streetsblog

Aslate of new guidelines will encourage states to spend their federal safety dollars on protecting vulnerable road users — but some advocates say both the recommendations and a new rule buried in the bipartisan infrastructure bill could be even stronger.

On Wednesday, the Federal Highway Administration released updated guidance for how states should spend the money they get from the the Highway Safety Improvement Program — a program which, contrary to the confusing name, can be used on any road, not just highways owned by state DOTs — which will provide $15.6 billion over the next five years for projects aimed at curbing roadway deaths and serious injuries.

The document places a strong emphasis on the department’s new national goal of ending road deaths completely, rather than merely making marginal safety improvements focused on drivers — a significant shift for a program that, until recently, allowed states to benefit from the federal money even if they set fatality reduction “targets” that wouldn’t actually reduce deaths at all. Namely, the guidelines:

  • explicitly note that projects aimed at protecting vulnerable road users “warrant additional consideration,” over and above other types of projects.

  • discourage states from utilizing the loophole in federal law that allows them to shift Highway Safety Improvement Program dollars to other federal programs not concerned with safety — something 23 states did last year — and encourages them to shift non-safety dollars into the HSIP instead.

  • remind states that do “flex” their funds that there’s a new policy folded into the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which allows them to use Highway Safety Improvement Program dollars to cover the 10-percent state match required to access another pot of money called Transportation Alternatives — or, in other words, that they can get the federal government to cover the entire cost of bike- and walk-focused projects, rather than just 90 percent.

The grants will be distributed to states based on a federal formula, which means that the Federal Highway Administration can’t actually deny states money if they don’t put people outside cars first — except in a few special cases.


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