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Memorandum

US Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration


Subject: ACTION: High Risk Rural Roads Program Guidance Requirements under 23 U.S.C. §148 (a)(1)&(f)

Date: May 19, 2006

From: Jeffrey A. Lindley, Associate Administrator for Safety

Reply to Attn. of: HSA-20

To: Division Administrators

The HSIP, codified as section 148 of title 23, U.S.C., (23 U.S.C. §148), was elevated to a core program as a result of the passage of the SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59. The SAFETEA-LU introduced a new set-aside provision known as the High Risk Rural Roads Program (HRRRP), codified as 23 U.S.C. §148 (f). The attached interim guidance provides State Departments of Transportation with basic preliminary information to implement and administer this new program.

As a new statutory requirement, we expect to learn from ongoing implementation practices in the HRRRP. Best practices and implementation techniques associated with the State’s application of this provision will be shared nationally and could include modifications to this guidance. We welcome ideas and suggestions on how to better identify and analyze safety needs on rural roads that will lead to better use of limited HRRRP funds.

This program represents a significant step toward recognizing the need to reduce fatalities on rural roads, which account for almost two-thirds of the over 43,000 roadway fatalities in the U.S. If we are to make headway in reducing fatalities and serious injuries, we must improve safety on rural roads, regardless of ownership.

If you have questions or comments on this guidance, please contact Ms. Leslie Wright of the Office of Safety at (202) 366-2176 or E-mail at leslie.wright@dot.gov. see update*

Attachment


High Risk Rural Roads Interim Guidance

I. Background:

The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), codified as section 148 of title 23, United States Code (23 U.S.C. §148), was elevated to a core program as a result of the passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Public Law 109-59. Additionally, SAFETEA-LU introduced a new set-aside provision known as the High Risk Rural Roads Program (HRRRP), codified as 23 U.S.C. §148 (f). This program is a component of the HSIP and is set-aside after HSIP funds have been apportioned to the States. It provides $90 million of HSIP apportionment per year for high risk rural roads (HRRR) highway safety improvement projects. Projects may be selected on any public HRRR to correct or improve hazardous road locations or features. The State’s HSIP, including the HRRR element, shall consider the safety needs on all public roads, whether state or locally owned.

The purpose of this document is to provide State DOTs with basic preliminary direction in administering and implementing the HRRR Program provisions.

II. Statutory Requirements:

23 U.S.C. §148(a)(1) defines a High Risk Rural Road (HRRR). States are required to identify these roadways (and expend the HRRR funds) according to the following definition:

  1. on which the accident rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries exceeds the statewide average for those functional classes of roadway; or
  2. that will likely have increases in traffic volume that are likely to create an accident rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries that exceeds the statewide average for those functional classes of roadway."

23 U.S.C. §148(f) provides the following statutory language which establishes the HRRR Program:

"High Risk Rural Roads.--

  1. In general.--After making an apportionment under section 104(b)(5) for a fiscal year beginning after September 30, 2005, the Secretary shall ensure, from amounts made available to carry out this section for such fiscal year, that a total of $90,000,000 of such apportionment is set aside by the States, proportionally according to the share of each State of the total amount so apportioned, for use only for construction and operational improvements on high risk rural roads.
  2. Special rule.--A State may use funds apportioned to the State pursuant to this subsection for any project under this section if the State certifies to the Secretary that the State has met all of State needs for construction and operational improvements on high risk rural roads." [Emphasis added]

Approximately 60% of fatalities nationwide occur on rural roads. The FHWA anticipates that the Special Rule provision found in section 148(f)(2) will be used only in rare cases where States have few if any roads eligible for the program, e.g. the District of Columbia.

States should consider the safety needs on all eligible public HRRRs, whether state or locally owned. The following definition of a public road and a public authority are provided for reference:

III. The Relationship Between HSIP and HRRRP:

The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is a core Federal-aid highway program and is intended to achieve significant reductions in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on public roads. The HRRRP is a component of the HSIP and supports road safety program efforts through the implementation of construction and operational improvements on high risk rural roads. The HSIP including the HRRR element must consider all public roads.

Examples of construction and operational improvements may include, but are not limited to, those found in 23 U.S.C. §148(a)(3)(B). Please refer to Attachment I of this document. [Note: Some items, as noted in the attachment, are not eligible for funding under the HRRR provision because they are not construction and operational improvements.]

IV. Two Step Process: Identify Eligible Roadways and Analyze the Highway Safety Problem:

Data is imperative to both steps of the process outlined in this section. Ideally, a State’s roadway and crash data systems should be able to identify the location of all the fatal and incapacitating injuries occurring on all public roads, including those off the State highway system.

With regard to these data needs, States can be classified in one of two categories: those with a comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data system, and those working towards a comprehensive statewide data system. With this in mind, FHWA recognizes that many State DOTs may not immediately be able to identify HRRRs off their State highway systems. If a State does not currently have the capability of locating crashes on all public roadways, the State may adopt interim practices that utilize the best available data resources until a comprehensive statewide roadway and crash data system is implemented. To ensure that a harmonized program is applied, common interim practices should be used statewide. Attachment II provides a list of funding sources for traffic safety data activities that States and local entities might utilize as they move toward the development of a comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data system.

The HRRR reporting section of the HSIP annual report [23 U.S.C. §148(g)], [http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/guides/guide040406.cfm], requests information on the data-based methods that were used to identify roadway segments for the HRRR Program in the absence of a comprehensive statewide roadway and crash data system and a list of the steps underway to improve the data systems to permit the required analysis.

As States implement the HRRR Program there are two vital steps associated with this process: 1) identify eligible roadways; and 2) analyze the highway safety problem with available tools and information. Specific guidance related to each step is outlined below.

STEP ONE: Identify Eligible Roadways. As stated in SAFETEA-LU, eligible roadways must have rates that exceed the statewide average for the respective roadway functional classifications. States should use two types of data in identifying roadways that exceed the statewide average rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries: crash data (e.g. fatalities and incapacitating injuries), and exposure data [e.g. vehicle miles traveled (VMT), average daily traffic (ADT), lane miles, etc.]. Within the limits of the law, States have a great deal of flexibility in identifying eligible roadways. Regardless of the measures used, States should focus on data driven methods, with the understanding that as crash and roadway data systems mature, the roadway identification process will become more sophisticated.

  1. Fatal and incapacitating injury crash data
    1. States with comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data systems should have the ability to specifically locate fatal and incapacitating injuries on all public roads on the respective roadway functional classifications (rural major and minor collectors, and rural local roads) and determine accurate crash rates.
    2. States working toward a comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data system should utilize available federal, state and local resources including the following:
      1. State and local crash files for fatal and incapacitating injury crashes that are located on rural major and minor collectors and rural local roads.
      2. Other State or local fatal and injury data sources that may provide information on the severity of injuries resulting from crashes. Examples of such data sources include: emergency medical services (data on severity of injuries sustained in a crash); enforcement agencies (data related to the overall severity of a crash); and hospitals (data related to the end result of injuries sustained). If these data sources are used, States should link the information to the location of the crash on the respective roadway functional classification.
      3. National data, such as the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) that provides data on crashes involving traffic-related fatalities. FARS data can be sorted by roadway functional classification (rural major and minor collectors, and rural local roads); however, the specific roadway location for the data cannot be determined.
  1. Exposure data and other data used to determine rates:
    1. States with comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data systems should have the ability to identify necessary exposure data by roadway functional classification on all public roads on the respective roadway functional classifications (rural major and minor collectors, and rural local roads) and determine accurate crash rates. Examples of exposure data to develop a rate include:
      1. vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
      2. average daily traffic (ADT)
      3. lane miles
      4. number of vehicles entering an intersection
    2. States working toward a comprehensive statewide crash and roadway data system may use other sources for exposure data. A balanced data driven approach should be used to identify eligible roadways.
      1. A state may consider the relationship between population or other "per capita" data (e.g. registered vehicles, licensed drivers, etc.), and the number of fatalities and incapacitating injuries of a defined area to determine fatality and incapacitating injury rates.
      2. National data, such as the Highway Performance Monitoring System and the FHWA’s Highway Statistics, may be used to provide roadway data that is derived from State data. Like FARS, this data may be sorted by roadway functional classification; however, the specific roadway location for the data cannot be determined.
  2. Alternate roadway identification consideration: In the absence of necessary data related to a and b above, other roadway identification considerations may be used. One possible interim approach would be to consider allocation of funds based on the distribution of fatalities and incapacitating injuries on state vs. local roads. For example, if 60% of fatal and incapacitating injuries occur on local roads, 60% of the funds could be distributed to local roads.
  3. The second part of the HRRR provision of SAFETEA-LU [23 U.S.C. §148(a)(1)(B)] addresses those roads that will likely have increases in traffic volume that may result in an accident rate for fatalities and incapacitating injuries exceeding that of the statewide average. States are encouraged to work closely with State and local planners to identify such roads. For instance, in determining the projected rates, among other resources and methods, States may use specific growth projection patterns as identified by the respective Metropolitan Planning Organizations, city/county planning organizations, and growth management organizations to assist with identifying HRRRs. Examples of good sources for such information are Regional Councils of Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

STEP TWO: Analyze the Highway Safety Problem With Available Tools and Information.

  1. States with comprehensive roadway and crash data systems may use existing data and analysis capabilities to define the problems and select projects. Once potential locations are identified, the data should be analyzed in more detail to diagnose safety concerns, identify potential countermeasures, and make final project selections.
  2. States without comprehensive roadway and crash data systems should use their best available data to define the problem and select projects. Examples of data sources include, but are not limited to, the following:
    1. Other state- or local-based project ranking processes that use appropriate crash data
    2. Methods that consider other data reflective of fatalities and incapacitating injuries, such as:
      1. Prioritized projects resulting from Road Safety Audits
      2. Corridor analyses that identify systematic safety improvements. For instance, where crash and/or roadway data suggest that many crashes occur given a certain type roadway feature, a State may systematically implement an appropriate countermeasure that would improve safety conditions on the respective roadways. (e.g. signs, pavement markings, rumble strips, horizontal curve treatments, etc..)
  3. Alternate problem analysis consideration: Input data used to derive the 5% "Most Severe Safety Needs" Report, 23 U.S.C. §148(c)(1)(D), [http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/guides/guide040506.cfm ], as well as the final report information may be useful in determining where HRRR Program funds should be applied.

V. Program Reporting Guidance:

23 U.S.C. §148(g) establishes the HSIP reporting requirements. Since the HRRR Program is a component of the HSIP, information is being requested on the HRRR Program through this provision. The report should provide information on the HRRR Program in three parts: basic program implementation information, methods used to select HRRR, and detailed information assessing the HRRR Program projects. Please refer to the HSIP Reporting Guidance for additional information. (http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/guides/guide040406.cfm )

VII. Funding:

The HRRRP set-a-side for each State is calculated using the same formula that is used for the HSIP apportionments: total lane miles Federal-aid highways, total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on lanes on the Federal-aid highways, and number of fatalities on the Federal-aid system. The amount available for the HRRRP will be calculated by the FHWA each year after apportionment of the overall HSIP funds. Although $90 million is set aside specifically for the HRRRP, States may use their discretion to expend other HSIP funds on rural roads if such roads emerge as a safety need in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/guides/guide040506.cfm).

Availability of Funds: Highway safety funds are available for obligation in the fiscal year for which they are apportioned plus 3 additional fiscal years. After that point, the funds lapse and are no longer available for obligation. For example, FY 2006 HSIP funds apportioned to the States would lapse if not obligated by September 30, 2009.

VIII. Attachments:

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Attachment I

Sample List of Construction and Operational Improvements
23 U.S.C. Section 148(a)(3)(B)

(B) Inclusions.--The term 'highway safety improvement project' includes a project for one or more of the following
(i) An intersection safety improvement.
(ii) Pavement and shoulder widening (including addition of a passing lane to remedy an
unsafe condition).
(iii) Installation of rumble strips or another warning device, if the rumble strips or other warning devices do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians, and the disabled.
(iv) Installation of a skid-resistant surface at an intersection or other location with a high frequency of accidents.
(v) An improvement for pedestrian or bicyclist safety or safety of the disabled.
(vi) Construction of any project for the elimination of hazards at a railway-highway crossing that is eligible for funding under section 130, including the separation or protection of grades at railway-highway crossings.
(vii) Construction of a railway-highway crossing safety feature, including installation of protective devices.
(viii) The conduct of a model traffic enforcement activity at a railway-highway
crossing. (NOT eligible under HRRRP)
(ix) Construction of a traffic calming feature.
(x) Elimination of a roadside obstacle.
(xi) Improvement of highway signage and pavement markings.
(xii) Installation of a priority control system for emergency vehicles at signalized
intersections.
(xiii) Installation of a traffic control or other warning device at a location with high
accident potential.
(xiv) Safety-conscious planning. (NOT eligible under HRRRP)
(xv) Improvement in the collection and analysis of crash data. (NOT eligible under HRRRP)
(xvi) Planning integrated interoperable emergency communications equipment, operational activities, or traffic enforcement activities (including police assistance) relating to workzone safety. (Only "operational activities relating to workzone safety" are eligible under HRRRP; "Planning integrated interoperable emergency communications equipment and traffic enforcement activities relating to workzone safety" are NOT eligible under HRRRP)
(xvii) Installation of guardrails, barriers (including barriers between construction work
zones and traffic lanes for the safety of motorists and workers), and crash attenuators.
(xviii) The addition or retrofitting of structures or other measures to eliminate or
reduce accidents involving vehicles and wildlife.
(xix) Installation and maintenance of signs (including fluorescent, yellow-green signs) at
pedestrian-bicycle crossings and in school zones.
(xx) Construction and yellow-green signs at pedestrian-bicycle crossings and in school zones.
(xxi) Construction and operational improvements on high risk rural roads.

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Attachment II

FEDERAL FUNDING SOURCES
FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY DATA ACTIVITIES

The range of funding sources presently available from U.S. Department of Transportation modal administrations to finance traffic safety data improvements is described below. Funding for such activities is not limited to programs specifically designated as "data" or as "safety" funding. Instead, funding for data improvements can be found in core programs and other established programs not normally thought of as "safety programs".

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) - Managed Programs

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) - Managed Programs

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) - Managed Programs

Note: Please refer to the following website: http://www.dottrcc.gov/pages/funding.htm

Page last modified on October 15, 2014.
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