The Lead

Fetterman introduces bill to fund road safety improvements for pedestrians

By: - June 22, 2023 1:47 pm

Sen. John Fetterman (Photo via Fetterman Senate Office)

As a stretch of I-95 in Philadelphia damaged by an explosion on June 11 comes close to reopening, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., on Thursday introduced a bill to fund improvements for roads across the state and the U.S., aiming to make them safer for pedestrians. 

The Shovel-Ready Streets Act would amend the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program, established in 2021 as a discretionary program under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Under that program, at least 40% of the funding has to go to action plan grants, which “assist communities that do not currently have a roadway safety plan in place to reduce roadway fatalities,” according to the DOT website. The program’s implementation grants, on the other hand, provide funding to “implement strategies and projects that will significantly reduce or eliminate transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries.” 

But according to Fetterman, many cities have been planning for these investments for years and may have already completed the planning. That’s left more shovel-ready projects than there is grant money to fund them, he said.

The new bill would halve the amount of funding required to go toward action plan grants, reducing it to 20%, which Fetterman said will free up funding for projects that have already been planned.

“The recent disaster on I-95 and the subsequent detour to the already dangerous Roosevelt Boulevard was a stark reminder of the perilous roads that run through our towns,” Fetterman said in a statement. 

“Safe streets are a life and death issue,” he added. “Though these deaths rarely make headlines, the hundreds of Pennsylvanian lives we lose due to unsafe streets is unacceptable and it doesn’t have to be this way. My bill will help us fix this chronic issue here in PA and across the country.”

The first round of funding from the SSRA grant program was awarded to projects across the country earlier this year for a total of $800 million for 511 projects. Of those awards, 473 were for action plans and 37 for implementation projects. 

Pennsylvania received two implementation project grants, in Lancaster ($12.7 million) and Philadelphia ($30 million), and a total of $3.9 million in action plan grants for eight projects. The funding went toward crosswalk upgrades, signal improvements, intersection modifications, and speed management measures.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly