Hope Ian – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – The federal government has issued a new warning to states seeking billions of dollars from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Act widen roads: protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists or risk losing money.
In a new report submitted to Congress and received by the Associated Press, the Department of Transportation says it will be committed to the safety and health of many users of the typical 21st century road, from public transport executioners and electric scooters to Uber rideshare. pickups and people delivering goods. When allocating funds, projects such as bicycle paths and roundabouts, improved sidewalks, footpaths and lanes will be preferred.
With this department headed by Transport Minister Pete Butizig seeks to change the long-standing orientation of states to direct federal funds to create lanes to ease congestion and speed up traffic – often at the expense of predominantly non-white communities living near busy roads.
“Security has always been a top priority for the DOT,” the report said in response to a request from the House of Representatives a year ago. record high road deaths in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report says that the adoption by the Federal Highway Administration of the “Full Streets” strategy, which is already followed by hundreds of communities, will have a positive impact on the safety of all road users – change the trend of fatal and serious injuries and healthier, greener and more a fair land transport system ”.
About a third of those killed in road traffic in the United States are people outside of vehicles, such as motorcyclists and pedestrians.
“The full street is safe and feels safe for everyone who uses the street,” said Stephanie Pollock, deputy head of the highway administration. “We cannot ensure the safety of people on our roads if we do not have safer roads and roads that slow drivers down to safe speeds. Through our Complete Streets initiative, FHWA will play a leading role in providing a fair and safe transportation network for travelers of all ages and abilities, including vulnerable road users and those in unserved communities who have faced historic disinvestment. ”
The groundbreaking shift promises a boost for cities from Atlanta and Austin, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee, that are pushing to raise money to build clean vehicles, reduce deaths by slowing traffic and unite racially divided communities accessories highway after states. refused to allocate funds for these purposes. In 2020, the latest available data In the United States, road deaths for blacks jumped 23% compared to 7% overall. According to the report, low-income blacks are more likely to live near pedestrian crash sites, and during the pandemic they were disproportionately represented among key workers who continued to commute to work, often on public transportation.
However, these efforts could heighten tensions with Republican-led states and governors who fear fear of giving up broad freedom to choose their road projects, and some see bipartisan law as a tool for Biden’s liberal affairs. Others fear that rural areas may lose out in the process.
“Americans expect the new roads and real infrastructure to be considered, not a means for the administration,” said Sam Graves, a Missouri state spokesman and chief Republican on the House Transport Committee.
In a letter to governors last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), one of 19 Republicans who voted 50-50 in the Senate to pass the infrastructure bill, criticized the December a note from the Highway Administration urging states to use the new funding to maintain and improve the highway before adding lanes. McConnell and Capito said states should continue to spend according to the formula as they see fit to meet local needs.
“The law addresses infrastructure issues in a way that reflects the contributions and consensus of the two parties and avoids heavy regulatory requirements,” they wrote. “Nothing in (the law) gives the FHWA the power to dictate how states should use their funding from the federal formula, and does not prioritize public transportation or bike lanes over new roads and bridges.”
Although the congressional report has no legal force, the department points to potential legal powers under federal statutes to redirect money to up to 70% of the country’s highways and does not rule out stronger efforts to push states to enforce. The department said Wednesday that plans proposed by many cities to build green spaces on top of underground highways are likely to be eligible for various federal money banks. – quotes Butigig the need to fix the history of racist design on the roads.
The department’s report acknowledges problems in ensuring that states incorporate road safety devices, noting that data measuring their effectiveness in protecting non-motorists is limited. He promised tighter oversight of overall federal money distribution.
Pollock, a practical manager who previously ran a Massachusetts transportation agency under the Republican governor, has been actively pushing federal road design standards. Last year FHWA temporarily halted the Texas-proposed I-45 extension in Houston because of civil rights issues, a rare approval by the federal government to investigate potential racial consequences. The agency has since revoked part of that right when negotiating a resolution with a state that seeks to limit economic and environmental damage to low-income neighbors, black and Latin American communities.
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