The previous three units focused on the planning component of the HSIP – identifying the problems, selecting appropriate countermeasures, and prioritizing projects. Now it is time to implement the projects and put the planning efforts into action.
The first step towards implementing prioritized projects is to identify funding sources. Once funding is identified, projects are included in the transportation improvement program and move forward into design and construction.
Unit 5 begins with a discussion on several funding topics, including: HSIP funding requirements, other safety funding sources, allocation issues, and a discussion on state solutions to funding challenges. This unit also includes a discussion on programming projects into the transportation improvement program and concludes with a discussion on the development of evaluation plans.
5.1 HSIP Funding Requirements
Under 23 U.S.C. 148(a)(3), a variety of highway safety improvement projects are eligible for HSIP funding on all public roadways. States should identify projects or activities that are most likely to reduce the number of and potential for fatalities and serious injuries. In most cases, the Federal share is 90 percent except for certain safety improvements listed in 23 U.S.C. 120(c) which are funded at 100 percent.
A highway safety improvement project is defined as a project consistent with the SHSP that corrects or improves a hazardous road location or feature or addresses a highway safety problem. Projects include, but are not limited to, the following:
- An intersection safety improvement;
- Pavement and shoulder widening (including addition of a passing lane to remedy an unsafe condition);
- Installation of rumble strips or other warning devices, if the rumble strips or other warning devices do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians, and persons with disabilities;
- Installation of a skid-resistant surface at an intersection or other location with a high frequency of crashes;
- An improvement for pedestrian or bicyclist safety or for the safety of persons with disabilities;
- Construction of any project for the elimination of hazards at a railway-highway crossing that is eligible for funding under 23 U.S.C. 130, including the separation or protection of grades at railway-highway crossings;
- Construction of a railway-highway crossing safety feature, including installation of highway-rail grade crossing protective devices;
- The conduct of an effective traffic enforcement activity at a railway-highway crossing;
- Construction of a traffic calming feature;
- Elimination of a roadside obstacle or roadside hazard;
- Improvement of highway signage and pavement markings;
- Installation of a priority control system for emergency vehicles at signalized intersections;
- Installation of a traffic control or other warning device at a location with high-crash potential;
- Transportation safety planning;
- Improvement in the collection and analysis of safety data;
- Planning integrated interoperable emergency communications equipment, operational activities, or traffic enforcement activities (including law enforcement assistance) relating to work zone safety;
- Installation of guardrails, barriers (including barriers between construction work zones and traffic lanes for the safety of road users and workers), and crash attenuators;
The addition or retrofitting of structures or other measures to eliminate or reduce crashes involving vehicles and wildlife;
- Installation and maintenance of signs (including fluorescent yellow-green signs) at pedestrian-bicycle crossings and in school zones;
- Construction and operational improvements on high-risk rural roads; and
- Conducting road safety audits.
Many Federal funding sources are eligible for HSIP projects and programs. The next section details these sources and additional behavior-related Federal funds which may be available to benefit HSIP programs and projects, especially through SHSP partnerships and initiatives.
5.2 Federal Safety Funding Sources
Funding for safety projects comes from a variety of Federal, state, and local sources. This section identifies Federal funding resources to help leverage your HSIP projects and programs.
SAFETEA-LU established new programs and set-asides, including the following funding sources:
- High-Risk Rural Roads Program (HRRRP) – The HRRRP is a set-aside of the HSIP and supports road safety program efforts through construction and operational improvements on high-risk rural roads. The HSIP, including the HRRRP element, must consider all public roads.
- 23 U.S.C. 130: Railway-Highway Grade Crossing Program (RHGCP) – SAFETEA‑LU continued the RHGCP as a set-aside program of the HSIP. It is focused on reducing the occurrence of crashes at railway-highway crossings. States can use the apportioned funds for related data compilation and analysis which will allow informed decisions to prioritize railway-highway crossing improvements (e.g., crash data, traffic volume and mix, road inventory, etc.). States can use not more than 2 percent of funds apportioned to a state for the data compilation and analysis. At least half of the funds are to be used for the installation of protective devices at railway-highway crossings, with special emphasis given to the legislative requirement that all public crossing be provided with standard signing.
- Safe Routes to School (SRTS) – The program is designed to make walking and bicycling to school safe and more appealing; and to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects which improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. Each state is apportioned funds based on its relative share of total enrollment in primary and middle schools (kindergarten through eighth grade), but no state receives less than $1 million annually.
Other Federal-aid funds are eligible to support and leverage the HSIP. States are encouraged to fund improvements to safety features routinely provided as part of a broader Federal-aid project from the same source as the broader project, as per 23 CFR 924. States should address the full scope of their safety needs and opportunities on all roadway categories by using other funding sources such as the following:
- Interstate Maintenance (IM) – Provides funding for resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, and reconstruction; reconstruction or new construction of bridges, interchanges, and over crossings along existing Interstate routes, including the acquisition of right-of-way where necessary; capital costs for operational, safety, traffic management, or intelligent transportation systems (ITS) improvements (operating costs are not eligible for IM funds); and preventive maintenance.
- Surface Transportation Program (STP) – Provides funding for a variety of transportation purposes. With some exceptions, these funds can be used on all public roads except those functionally classified as local or rural minor collectors. Highway safety improvement projects, including projects to improve signing and pavement markings, may be funded on any public road.
- National Highway System (NHS) – Provides funding for resurfacing, restoring, rehabilitating, and reconstructing highways on the NHS.
- Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) – Provides funding for projects and programs in air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas for ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) which reduce transportation-related emissions.
- State Planning and Research (SPR) – The state DOTs must provide data that supports the FHWA’s responsibilities to the Congress and to the public, including information required for preparing proposed legislation and reports to the Congress; and evaluating the extent, performance, condition, and use of the Nation’s transportation systems. States have used SPR funds for data improvements.
- Equity Bonus – Ensures each state receives a specific share of the aggregate funding for major highway programs, with every state guaranteed at least a specified percentage of that state’s share of contributions to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. The Federal share for the funds programmatically distributed to other programs has the same Federal share as those programs.
In addition to the major highway program funding sources, other Federal safety resources may assist with HSIP implementation. These grant programs are administered by NHTSA and FMCSA and can be used to assist with law enforcement efforts and improve traffic record data collection and data systems. They include:
- 23 U.S.C. 154 and 164 Transfer Funds – States in which Federal-aid highway funds are transferred based on noncompliance with 23 U.S.C. 154 Open Container Requirements or 23 U.S.C. 164 Minimum Penalties for Repeat Offenders for Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence can use the transfer funds on approved projects for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures or direct the funds to state/local law enforcement to increase impaired driving enforcement. States also may elect to use the funds for hazard elimination activities eligible under 23 U.S.C. 152.
- 23 U.S.C. 402: State and Community Highway Safety Grants – Supports a full range of highway safety behavioral programs, including alcohol countermeasures, occupant protection, police traffic services (e.g., enforcement), emergency medical services, traffic records, motorcycle safety pedestrian and bicycle safety, nonconstruction aspects of road safety, and speed enforcement and management programs. A minimum of 40 percent of a state’s Section 402 funds must be expended by local governments, or be used for the benefit of local governments. To receive Federal highway safety grant funds, State Highway Safety Offices must submit an annual Highway Safety Plan (HSP) to the NHTSA.
- 23 U.S.C. 405: Occupant Protection Incentive Grants – Provides incentive grants to encourage states to adopt and implement effective programs to reduce highway deaths and injuries resulting from individuals riding unrestrained or improperly restrained in motor vehicles.
- 23 U.S.C. 406: Safety Belt Performance Grants – Encourages states to enact and enforce primary safety belt laws. A state may use these grant funds for any behavioral or infrastructure safety purpose under Title 23, for any project which corrects or improves a hazardous road location or feature, or proactively addresses highway safety problems. However, at least $1 million of each state’s allocation must be obligated to behavioral highway safety activities.
- 23 U.S.C. 408: State Traffic Safety Information System Improvement Grants – Encourages states to adopt and implement effective programs to improve the timeliness, accuracy, completeness, uniformity, integration, and accessibility of state data needed to identify priorities for national, state, and local highway and traffic safety programs; to evaluate the effectiveness of efforts to make such improvements; to link the state’s data systems, including traffic records, with other data systems within the state; and to improve the compatibility of the state’s data system with national data systems and data systems of other states.
- 23 U.S.C. 410: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Countermeasures Incentive Grants – Provides an incentive to states to implement effective programs to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from impaired driving.
- SAFETEA-LU Section 2010: Motorcyclist Safety Grants – Provides grants to states which adopt and implement effective programs to reduce the number of crashes involving motorcyclists. Funds can be used only for motorcycle training and motorist awareness programs.
- CFR Title 49 Part 350 Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) – Provides financial assistance to states to reduce the number and severity of crashes and hazardous materials incidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The goal of MCSAP is to reduce CMV-involved crashes, fatalities, and injuries through consistent, uniform, and effective CMV safety programs.
Many sources of funding are available to resourceful transportation safety professionals. Sometimes understanding the regulations associated with the funding can be challenging. The following section addresses the most common funding allocation issues and provides examples of what states have done to meet those challenges.
5.3 Funding Allocation Issues
The impact of HSIP funding allocations on state programs is not always as clear-cut as it may appear from reading the legislation. While the issues are complicated and can provide challenges, they can often be overcome through collaboration and innovative solutions.
As an example, a flexible funding provision in SAFETEA‑LU allows states to use a portion HSIP funds for noninfrastructure projects if the state has adopted a strategic highway safety plan and certified all safety infrastructure and railway-highway crossing needs have been met. The HSIP flexible funding provision allows states to transfer up to 10 percent of the HSIP funds to noninfrastructure projects identified in the SHSP, including projects to promote public awareness and educate the public concerning highway safety matters and projects to enforce highway safety laws.
A study focusing on HSIP implementation following SAFETEA‑LU found many states could not meet the certification requirement because of ongoing infrastructure needs and concerns about potential legal liability a state could incur by certifying all its infrastructure safety needs have been met; however, states working closely with their FHWA Division Offices have been able to certify the needs have been met and successfully flexed some of their HSIP funds.
State Allocation Issues
A primary allocation issue involves “best use of funds” versus “eligibility.” To qualify as an eligible highway safety improvement project under Section 148, a project must be described in the state strategic highway safety plan and correct or improve a hazardous road location or feature, or address a highway safety problem.
Safety engineers and their managers should employ a proactive approach in allocating HSIP funding for projects. The following tactics will help move projects forward, while optimizing the use of safety funds:
- Use a data-driven process to identify projects for which HSIP funds are allocated.
- Collaborate with stakeholders, decision-makers, and within the agency to help generate internal and external support.
- Provide clear and continuous communication to educate decision-makers and the public about the importance of safety and the successes achieved.
Making use of these practices also will help avoid potential allocation issues such as the following:
- HSIP funds are not spent on safety or not spent at all due to management decision-making processes.
- Management believes all infrastructure projects improve safety, resulting in safety funds being used for purposes other than addressing the specific safety problems identified through data analysis. Examples include using the safety funds to pay for safety elements (e.g., guardrail, lighting, etc.) on projects not identified as part of the HSIP.
- HSIP funds are used to make up the difference between obligation authority and obligation limitation.
Some agency decision-makers have considerable discretion on proportional allocation and eligibility. When a single activity accomplishes multiple purposes (e.g., pavement preservation and improved safety), these agencies attribute the cost associated with each improvement to the appropriate program. Lack of flexibility encourages delivery of only single-purpose projects. The ability to distribute the cost of a single project to multiple funding programs is an important asset when allocations are not restricted legislatively by eligible expenditures and amounts.
Safety engineers who are successful in making the case to “put the money on the road” use the following strategies to expedite the implementation of safety projects:
- Program safety projects by line items in the STIP, also referred to as “lump sum programming,” which allows for flexibility in moving projects forward.
Bundle multiple projects to save on time and resources when letting projects for bid.
- Mainstream safety elements (e.g., guardrail, rumble strips, edgeline on horizontal curves, etc.) into the overall construction program; hence, the projects are separated from the HSIP, which frees up resources.
- Expedite a safety project by qualifying for a categorical exclusion (CE), which eliminates the need for an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Projects may be eligible for a CE if they do not pose a significant impact on the human environment. Examples of such projects are included in 23 CFR 771.
- Streamline contract negotiations by utilizing indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) or task order contracts. These contracts are awarded to a selected company or companies for a base period of time and provide minimum and maximum limits for services in dollar values.
- Use force account construction for small projects. If agencies can document a finding of cost-effectiveness, they can use their own workers for the project and forego the procurement process.
- Integrate safety improvements into resurfacing and restoration projects, which may be an effective and efficient method for simultaneously pursuing infrastructure and safety goals.
Once funding sources have been identified, the next step in implementing prioritized safety projects is to include them in the statewide transportation improvement program.
5.4 Programming Projects
The statewide transportation improvement program (STIP) is the financial programming document for the state. It represents a commitment of the projects and programs that will be implemented throughout the state using Federal-aid transportation and transit funding.
For most categories of transportation projects, FHWA/FTA funds cannot be used unless the project is included in a fiscally constrained STIP. Safety projects funded under 23 U.S.C. 104(b)(5) must be included in the STIP.
- The STIP must identify reasonably available or committed revenue to match the estimated costs of the strategies included in the STIP.
- The STIP identifies implementation timing for specific projects and must cover a period of at least four years.
- The STIP must be fiscally constrained; however, a financial plan is optional.
- The FHWA/FTA must approve the STIP before STIP projects can proceed to implementation.
In urbanized areas with populations over 50,000, MPOs develop a transportation improvement program (TIP) which is the programming document for the metropolitan planning area. The TIP identifies the projects and funding to be implemented to reach the vision for the metropolitan area’s transportation system and services. The TIP represents a commitment of the projects and programs that will be implemented in the metropolitan planning area using local, state, and Federal-aid funds. TIPs are incorporated directly, without change, into the STIP.
Amendments to the STIP are common given the frequent changes in engineering practices, environmental issues, contracting issues, project readiness, and other factors that can require adjustments to project schedules and budgets.
Improvements listed in the STIP may be by location or improvement type. For example, several low-cost safety enhancements could be grouped together and listed as various safety improvements with an estimated cost and funding source identified.
Once projects have been programmed, they can move forward into design and construction. However, since the HSIP is a data driven process, it is important to first develop an evaluation plan.
5.5 Evaluation Plan Development
Well-designed evaluations reduce agency reliance on professional judgment by providing quantitative information on the impacts of highway safety improvements.
Evaluation plans should always be considered prior to implementing any project or program.
The level of detail will depend upon the scope and complexity of the project or program. Following are typical steps in developing the evaluation plan:
- Write a statement defining the purpose(s) of the evaluation;
- Define the target population (e.g., facility, crash types, etc.);
- Clearly state goals, objectives, and performance measures;
- Define data needs based upon performance measures;
- Determine budget, staff, materials and other resource needs;
- Determine what method(s) will be used for collecting the information;
- Identify an evaluation timeline and milestones; and
- Identify the type of evaluation(s) and analyses to be used (e.g., design and combination of quantitative and qualitative analyses).
Rather than being considered an integral part of the HSIP process, evaluations are often an after thought. As a result, the opportunity to collect critical baseline data may be lost thereby compromising the effectiveness of the evaluation. Agencies should consider establishing evaluation guidelines to reinforce their commitment to evaluation, provide consistency, and improve the quality of evaluations.
Understanding HSIP funding requirements and sources, as well as potential allocation issues and solutions will assist in a smooth transition into the HSIP implementation process. While incorporating safety into programs and projects may be challenging, states are proving it is possible to implement countermeasures that demonstrate safety benefits even with limited resources. Development of an evaluation plan, prior to implementing the project, will help agencies identify the appropriate data to collect and use in the next phase of the HSIP process – evaluation. The evaluation component of the HSIP process is critical as it documents the effectiveness of projects and programs and provides feedback to improve future project and program planning and implementation.