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Buttigieg tells states to focus on safety for pedestrians, cyclists

WASHINGTON – The federal government has a new warning for states seeking billions of dollars from President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Law to widen the road: Protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists or avoid the risk of losing money.

In a new report submitted to Congress and published by the AP news agency, the Department of Transportation said it will aim to prioritize the safety and health of many people using a typical century-old road. 21, from people taking public transport and electric motorcycle arrive Uber share pickups and delivery people. Projects such as bike paths and roundabouts, enhanced sidewalks, pedestrian access to bus stops, and transit lanes will be prioritized in capital allocation.

In doing so, the part due to Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg seeks to shift the states’ long-standing focus to direct federal money toward adding lanes to reduce congestion and increase traffic speeds – often to the detriment of most non-white communities living next to crowded route.

“Consistently safe DOT“first priority”, according to the report, was written in response to a request from the House of Commons a year ago to address Record number of road deaths in the US transparent COVID-19 pandemic.

The report said Federal Highway Administration adopting the “Complete Roads” strategy, already followed by hundreds of communities, would “have a positive impact on the safety of all road users – reversing the trend of increasing injuries severity and mortality, while creating a healthier, greener living environment and more than a fair ground transportation system. ”

About one-third of traffic deaths in the United States are people outside of traffic, such as motorcyclists and pedestrians.

“A complete street is safe and creates a sense of security for all who use the street,” said Stephanie Pollack, deputy head of the highways department. “We cannot keep people safe on the road if we don’t have safer roads and roads that help drivers slow down to a safe speed. Through our Complete Streets initiative, FHWA will take a leadership role in providing a fair and safe transport network for visitors of all ages and abilities, including vulnerable road users and those from communities underserved have faced historic loss of investment. ”

The disruptive change promises a boost for cities from Atlanta and Austin, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee, already strained to raise money to build green-friendly transportation options , reduce deaths from slowing traffic, and incorporate communities that are racially segregated by highways after states have difficulty providing funds for that purpose. In 2020, the latest data available, US traffic death rate for blacks up 23% compared to 7% overall. According to the report, lower-income Blacks often live next to pedestrian crash hotspots, and in times of pandemic disproportionately between essential workers continuing to work, often travel by public transport.

The effort, however, could heighten tensions with Republican-led states and governors who take a stance on giving up ample time to choose their road projects, with some considering the law. bipartisan as a vehicle for Biden’s liberal goals. Others worry that rural areas may be lost in the process.

“Americans expect new roads and real infrastructure to be addressed — not as vehicles for the administration’s sober agenda,” said Missouri Representative Sam Graves, Republican. lead on the House transportation committee, said.

In a letter to governors last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., were among 19 Republicans who voted. in the Senate 50-50 to pass the infrastructure bill, criticized a December memo by the highway regulator calling on states to use new funding to maintain and improve improve highways before adding lanes. McConnell and Capito said states should continue to spend formulaic funding as they see fit to meet local needs.

“The law addresses infrastructure issues in a way that reflects input and bipartisan consensus and avoids burdensome, regulatory requirements,” they wrote. “There is nothing in (the law) that gives the FHWA the power to decide how states should use their federal formulary funding, nor prioritize public transit or bike paths on public roads.” new roads and bridges.”

While the report to Congress had no legal effect, the department pointed to potential regulatory authority under federal statute to refocus money on up to 70 percent of the nation’s highways and did not rule out efforts to stronger to promote compliance by states. The department said Wednesday that many cities proposing plans to build green spaces on underground highways are likely to qualify for different federal funds. Buttigieg quoted need to correct the history of racist design on the road.

The department’s report acknowledges the challenges to ensuring states build safety features on the roads, noting that the data measures their effectiveness in protecting non-automobile drivers. is still limited. It committed to stronger overall oversight of the distribution of federal money.

Pollack, a practice administrator who led Massachusetts’s transportation agency under the Republican governor, actively promoted federal road design standards. Last year, FHWA temporarily halt Texas’ proposed I-45 expansion in Houston over civil rights concerns, a rare assertion of federal power to investigate potential racial effects. The agency has since lifted part of that as it negotiated a solution with the state to limit the economic and environmental harm to low-income black and Latino communities. lower than the neighborhood.

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