Let’s make sure that the recently passed $1.2 trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) moves the needle for safety. There are some important Vision Zero advocacy opportunities in this new funding measure. The truth is that there are upsides and downsides to how this federal funding (especially as it’s funneled through the states) is likely to impact roadway safety (you can read an excellent summary of the good, bad & ugly from our friends at Transportation for America). We need your help to accentuate the upsides. You can start with these two steps:
- Get familiar with a few key safety elements of the new bill (summarized below), and
- Identify the key decision-makers in your community (local, regional, or state) who will influence these safety funds and get to know them.
The following two pieces of the funding measure are especially important to Vision Zero’s safety goals and offer significant opportunities to bring more safety funding to immense walking and biking needs, as well as traditionally underserved areas.
First, the Safe Streets and Roads for All program is a new, competitive grant program allowing local municipalities and regional entities to seek funding to plan and implement Vision Zero and Safe System strategies. Yes, it’s literally Vision Zero-focused! But we need to make sure it’s spent on authentic, meaningful projects and programs, not status quo auto-first, speed-first efforts. Unlike many other federal funding programs, this new one is open only to local communities and regions (rather than states). The call for projects is expected as early as this May.
ACTION → Read more about this exciting new program here. NEW: Sign up to receive updates on this program via email to USDOT: firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure your city leaders (mayor, city council members, transportation planners and engineers) know about the opportunity. AND, develop and share your recommendations for strong Vision Zero proposals, such as lowering speeds, re-designing to achieve Complete Streets, adding missing sidewalks and bikeways. If they’re not sure what a Vision Zero/Safe System proposal looks like, invite them to our March 31st webinar – details here.
And second, this existing state-level funding source – Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) – is getting a much-needed safety injection that could boost walking and biking safety – but only if state leaders do the right thing. The new bill mandates that if injuries to and deaths of people walking, biking or using assistive devices exceed 15% of a state’s total traffic injuries and fatalities, then that state must dedicate at least 15% of their HSIP dollars towards proven strategies to make those people safer.
ACTION → Find out if your state is on this list (spoiler: sadly, most states are!). HUGE thanks to the League of American Bicyclists for creating and sharing this data. And more background here from the League. AND, reach out to your state’s HSIP lead (list here) to make sure they know about the new rule. Introduce yourself, ask how you can be involved in the decision-making process, and how you can stay updated on the process. Make sure they know that you’ll be standing by to help (i.e. watchdogging that this is done right)!
Check out lots more info on the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and lots of resources on the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) site here. You can sign up US DOT’s list for updates on their initiatives. Here’s a helpful primer from the USDOT Leadership Academy on how transportation decisions get made.
And we recommend following and supporting the great work of the following organizations, which are focusing on this opportunity to influence funding and policies for safety, and check out these links for their helpful resources on this topic: Transportation for America, League of American Bicyclists, National League of Cities, America Walks, and NACTO.