Allegheny County and the area around Cranberry can begin planning road safety improvements through study grants announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The grants, $520,000 for the county and $244,000 for the Cranberry area, were among 385 implementation and planning grants worth $817 million. The funds were awarded under the Safe Streets and Roads for All program, part of the Biden administration’s economic stimulus plan that earmarked $14 billion over five years to improve road conditions and reduce the sharp spike in traffic deaths that occurred during the first two years of the pandemic.
The department announced 48 grants for project implementation and 337 grants for studies that are expected to lead to future projects.
For Allegheny County, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission applied for the grant to study ways to reduce accidents, which have averaged more than 12,000 a year since 2002. The $520,000 grant will help pay for a $650,000 study by SPC staff.
SPC spokeswoman Caitlin O’Connor said in an email that Josh Spano, manager of transportation operations and safety, will lead a team that will identify the most dangerous traffic areas in the county and develop plans to address them. The study should take just over a year, and the agency will then apply for another grant to implement the recommendations.
“We will work to identify locations with fatalities and serious injuries and develop proven countermeasures that meet safety goals,” she said. “We’ll focus on developing specific recommendations for infrastructure and policy changes that can be implemented to support the reduction of traffic incidents and fatalities.”
O’Connor said the study will include all roads, not only those owned and maintained by the county. It won’t be limited to one type of road or intersection.
“Overarching regional safety strategies will be developed as well as more specific improvements for specific high-risk areas,” she said.
In Butler County, Cranberry Manager Dan Santoro said the grant will help pay for a $305,000 study for safety improvements in Cranberry, Jackson, Zelienople and Harmony to better protect bikers and pedestrians. It should take four to six months for a consultant to identify dangerous intersections and connections with trails such as the Commodore Perry Trail in the neighboring communities and develop a plan to deal with them, Santoro said.
The study can be done that quickly, once the federal money is released, because the communities have been cooperating on preliminary work the past several years.
“We want to take that to the next level,” Santoro said. “We want to see where we can improve connectivity but also improve safety.”
During a national news briefing Wednesday, White House Infrastructure Improvement Coordinator Mitch Landrieu called the transportation grants “an unprecedented investment” in safety that has included three rounds of funding worth $1.7 billion this year. The implementation grants will fund programs such as $21.8 million in improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dallas, where there have been six deaths and 25 injuries over the past five years.
“I’m hoping these programs can save more lives and have more people home at the holiday table [in future years],” Polly Trottenberg, deputy transportation secretary, said during the briefing.
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