Here’s how USA TODAY analyzed federal Safe Streets for All grants across the U.S.

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Here's how USA TODAY analyzed federal Safe Streets for All grants across the U.S.

Here’s how USA TODAY analyzed federal Safe Streets for All grants across the U.S.

Hundreds of millions of dollars remain unawarded due to lack of applications from disadvantaged areas.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been awarding grants to improve safety on American roads, yet many disadvantaged communities with high rates of traffic deaths have not received any funding. Despite having access to crash data, the Safe Streets and Roads for All program has failed to encourage applications from areas most in need.

Here's how USA TODAY analyzed federal Safe Streets for All grants across the U.S.
Here’s how USA TODAY analyzed federal Safe Streets for All grants across the U.S.

 

Lack of Funding in High-Risk Communities

Hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for community safety have not been awarded because of low application rates. The Safe Streets Program Manager, Paul Teicher, acknowledged that many communities had been overlooked. The program’s failure to reach out to these hard-hit areas has resulted in a significant funding gap.

Failure to Reach Out to High-Risk Areas

DOT attorney Victoria Schmitt admitted in November that the department had not proactively engaged with communities at risk. Despite having crash data readily available, the DOT had not made efforts to encourage applications from these communities until recently. Only after USA TODAY’s investigation did the DOT start reaching out to at least 18 communities.

Application Requirements for Communities

Communities applying for funding must include three key statistics: total roadway deaths over five years, average annual fatality rate, and the percentage of underserved population. These figures are essential for assessing the need for funding in each community.

USA TODAY’s Analysis

USA TODAY used DOT’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System to calculate total roadway deaths and average fatality rates from 2017 to 2021 for every U.S. county. They also considered the underserved population percentage using DOT’s Equitable Transportation Community Explorer data, including tribal lands and U.S. territories.

Conclusion

The Safe Streets and Roads for All program’s failure to reach out to high-risk communities has resulted in a significant disparity in funding distribution. Many communities in urgent need of safety improvements have been left without support. It is crucial for the DOT to proactively engage with these communities to ensure that the grant program serves its intended purpose of making America’s roads safer for all.

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