LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new program called Safe Streets and Roads for All is being implemented across the nation, to prevent fatal and serious injuries— especially in urban areas.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $800 million dollars in grants to 510 road and street safety projects across the country.
According to Interim Director Casey Covington with Metroplan, Central Arkansas was selected to receive $700,000 dollars to conduct a safety action plan to identify trouble spots in Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner, and Lonoke counties.
"I'm excited about this grant because it allows us to focus on urban issues that may not be as large of an issue as the state consideration," Covington said.
According to Covington, there were several discretionary grant programs through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act— and one of those was the Safe Streets and Roads for All program.
"We are going to leverage a consultant that has a specialty in safety planning that will come in and help Metroplan. We'll look at the region, we'll look at individual streets to see where hotspots and crashes are an issue," he explained. "We'll take a particularly looking at multimodal considerations because of our urban region.”
Covington added that those hotspots will be identified by crash history, the condition of the crashes, and then what safety measures can be implemented to help address those concerns.
Through yearly studies, Metroplan members already have their eyes on certain corridors.
"Pike Avenue in North Little Rock has been a concern, but because of some actions that the city has taken there in terms of pedestrian crosswalks has made that a safer facility.," Covington said.
Although safety measures were implemented, in 2020, a pedestrian/bicyclist crash analysis report showed Pike Avenue, Colonel Glenn Road, and Asher Avenue along South University were rated among the highest pedestrian crash intersections from 2009 and 2018.
There were six crashes in the University and Colonel Glenn area and five on Pike and Pershing in North Little Rock.
"I'm pleased to say that there's a project that is currently ongoing project that Metroplan, ARDOT, and the city's working on to rebuild that intersection and Asher University that we think will improve pedestrian considerations there," Covington said.
The same report revealed that Central Arkansas' ten-year average pedestrian fatality rate was higher than the national rate and across the rest of the state.
Only 1% of total reported vehicle crashes include pedestrians and cyclists in Central Arkansas but account for 15% of the regional fatalities.
From 2009 to 2018, there were 1,631 pedestrians and 421 bicyclists involved in crashes across Faulkner Lonoke, Pulaski, and Saline counties.
Those crashes disproportionately affected a high number of minorities and youth, with black males under 18 having the highest pedestrian and bicyclist crash rate.
"So it's going to take us several, several years to get all of this done. But you're going to see products throughout that. So it's not going to be two years, and then we're producing a plan and one very specific item that is required is public involvement," Covington described.
Covington added that part of the planning will involve the public
This spring and summer Metroplan will host meetings to see where communities are seeing crashes and what solutions may work best for those areas— including everything from crosswalks, count-down traffic signals, better lighting, and striping.
Metroplan believes that Safe Streets and Roads for All will pay off several times, and Covington said he feels like this $700,000 grant is just the first drop in a bucket.
To keep up with when the public meetings will be, visit Metroplan's website.