Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bipartisan measure would improve road safety

Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) recently introduced the Safe Streets Act, which would ensure the use of uniform design elements to improve the safety of streets for drivers, walkers, bikers and those using public transit.

The measure, which is supported by Smart Growth America, would require states and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt federal guidelines for future transportation projects within two years.

"Too many of the roads in our country are designed solely with drivers in mind," Matsui said. "The risks of such design are evident in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries we see ever year, and often discourage more people from considering other transportation methods."

The bill would require more detailed plans for projects that would allow municipalities to find effective safety measures to implement at little or no additional cost. The Minnesota State Legislature recently conducted a feasibility study and found that a safe streets policy would not significantly impact road maintenance costs.

Some projects have realized cost savings from the highway safety measures. In Brown County, Wisconsin, narrowing a four-lane road to three lanes saved $347,515, which was approximatley16.5 percent of the reconstruction project's cost.

"We aren't necessarily talking about expensive widening projects or major redesigns of our roadways," Springfield, Mo., Director of Public Works Phil Broyles said. "These concepts can often be applied to existing streets by simply rethinking how we approach traffic flow and how we accommodate all modes of transportation."