U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Where a high percentage of crashes occur off the State system, DOTs with high-performing HSIPs work with local jurisdictions to help them develop and implement HSIP projects that address priority safety issues on locally-owned roadways. In some States this is done by allocating safety funds to local organizations. In other States, the State DOT leads the design and construction of these projects.
SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY:
Forming a Positive Relationship with Local Agencies in Oregon
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) worked with the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) and the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) to create a jurisdictionally-blind process for project nomination and selection through their ARTS program. All public roads are included in the program, regardless of agency ownership or responsibility. Oregon uses the ARTS program to facilitate the expenditures of federal funds with local agency liaisons who assist in project nomination, development, and delivery. The involvement of the ODOT Central Office technical staff, in cooperation with the local agencies throughout the selection process, was a major contributor to local understanding of how projects were prioritized and what factors contributed to a project not being selected, with local agencies viewing the Central Office involvement as highly objective. Additionally, ODOT’s use of consultants in screening and project development efforts results in a greater degree of local agency acceptance because the consultants serve as an independent third party following the process. In Oregon, the local agencies have generally been very receptive to the ARTS program and appreciate ODOT’s desire to provide assistance in screening and project development.
Many local agencies identified the ODOT-managed screening process as an asset, given local agency staff limitations. In particular, medium-sized cities such as Salem lack the staff necessary to conduct their own screening, and the ODOT screening process is helpful because it helps identify priorities. The results of the screening are considered successful on account of the statewide process of distributing funds managed by the State. Local agencies find the application process to be straightforward and they appreciate the ability to participate in the selection of countermeasures. The applications are available directly from the ARTS web site and Region ARTS staff have been extremely approachable and helpful as agencies looked to apply for projects to be included in the selection process. Some regions hold workshops with stakeholders to identify locations that are candidates for applications.
While local agencies in Oregon were occasionally unfamiliar with some countermeasures, particularly those related to signal operations and unusual intersection treatments, the knowledge transfer associated with local access to ARTS personnel has been extremely helpful.
The North Carolina Local Safety Partnership is a pilot program involving a cooperative effort between NCDOT and the UNC-HSRC. The purpose of the program is to introduce communities to the concepts required to implement low-cost safety improvements in a data-driven traffic engineering program. The project is funded by NCDOT and is deployed in six pilot communities where NCDOT is providing $50,000 for HSIP-funded Low-Cost Safety Improvements as an incentive for participation.
North Carolina’s Local Safety Partnership is a cooperative effort between NCDOT and UNC-HSRC. The program is helping six pilot communities learn about implementing low-cost safety improvements.
NCDOT data indicates that 70 percent of all crashes occur in the 72 municipalities with populations over 10,000. The development of locally-driven safety programs is a critical element in addressing deficiencies in infrastructure that may contribute to some of these crashes. Recognizing that many smaller agencies do not uniformly practice the “traditional” process of screening, evaluation, project selection, and funding provision, the program staff developed a program of site identification using HSIP funds for low-cost safety improvement implementation. The fundamentals of safety engineering and network screening are provided in a classroom environment, with local agencies learning the essentials of understanding crash data, identifying locations, interpreting collision diagrams, selecting interventions, and executing evaluations using various methods. The expectation is that local agencies will establish some formal safety engineering procedures and policies, based on these experiences and the program’s evaluation of project performance. The program’s goal of creating safety engineering functionality in communities will be evaluated based on project outcomes and community investment in safety program development, serving as a potential model for future iterations of the program.
In Utah, UDOT assists the local agencies by providing network screening and data analysis. This information is obtained easily by the local agency officials, largely due to the accessibility of UDOT’s Region and Central Office traffic and safety engineering staff. Local agency staff can use a toolbox of proven countermeasures developed by UDOT to address safety problems, particularly in the preparation of HSIP project applications, which are available online. The overall participation of local agencies, however, depends on the scale of the agency and its ability to utilize internal resources to leverage the valuable crash analysis information received from UDOT. Local agencies lacking the resources necessary to examine the crash data provided by UDOT have the option to request UDOT assistance with crash analysis.
UDOT provides network screening and data analysis for local agencies, as well as a toolbox of proven safety countermeasures.
In Illinois, the Central Bureau of Local Roads and Streets provides programmatic, policy, and technical assistance to Local Roads Bureaus in each District. Between the Central office and the Districts’ Bureau of Local Roads, these offices function as IDOT’s means of assisting local agencies with funding, policy, and design issues. The Bureau of Safety Engineering works with these offices and the local agencies specifically for safety and HSIP implementation. The District offices provide additional technical support to and coordination with local agencies to advance HSIP implementation. IDOT allocates 20 percent of its HSIP funds toward local roadway safety improvements. Typically, local agency HSIP projects are 90 percent federal HSIP funding with the remaining 10 percent share being a local match. The exception is where IDOT has provided the 10 percent match using State funds specifically for IDOT’s rural local roads sign upgrade program. IDOT allocated $13.3 million for local agencies in FY 2015. IDOT provides one-day workshops to local agencies seeking HSIP funding. These workshops help agencies understand the HSIP program goals, the basics of crash analysis, spot and systemic safety improvements, the mechanics of funding and delivering projects, and the process for preparing an HSIP project application. IDOT also provides bid advertisement services for locally-delivered safety improvements using its regular letting calendar, relieving local agencies of the expense of supporting a bid advertisement system for infrequent and small advertisements. In some cases, such as the rural local sign upgrade program, IDOT purchased signs using HSIP funding and the local agency installed the signs.
IDOT assists local agencies with funding, policy and design issues by providing workshops to help agencies understand the HSIP application and delivery process and providing bid advertisement services for local projects, among other efforts.
Other funding sources in Illinois for local projects include the Surface Transportation Program for Federal Aid highways and bridges, which allocates $190 million annually to local agencies. The Safe Routes to School Program, State Motor Fuel Tax, and other funding sources are used to deliver projects with occasional coordination with HSIP.
Even when 100 percent funding is available, participation of local agencies is not guaranteed, as local agencies do find some federal funding rules to be a challenge. As a result, some 2008 obligations remain unspent, leading IDOT to set a 2-year limit on obligations for local agencies.
Because MassDOT does not have a local assistance program, the origination of projects and HSIP candidate project submission activities are the responsibility of the MPOs. For HSIP projects, MassDOT provides the 10 percent federally matching funds against the HSIP portion, eliminating the need for local agencies to provide matching funds for HSIP projects. This eliminates cost as a barrier to local agency use of the HSIP.
In Massachusetts, municipalities may be responsible for the development of the design for HSIP projects, but for projects on the local system, those agencies are responsible for ROW acquisition, with assistance from MassDOT if those purchases involve HSIP or State funds. MassDOT allocates $10 million of the annual program to regional needs, to be disbursed by the 13 MPOs. The MPOs have a great deal of flexibility in disbursing these HSIP funds, as they can be applied to local agency projects as well as projects on the State-owned system, creating a jurisdictionally-independent disbursement for the MPO-allocated HSIP funding. Likewise, the Statewide HSIP category (where MassDOT HQ allocates the HSIP funds) can conversely be used to fund projects on locally-owned roadways.
MassDOT eliminates cost as a barrier to local agency use of the HSIP by providing the 10 percent federally matching funds against the HSIP portion of funds.
One Massachusetts MPO has identified and maintained a list of the 100 most “dangerous” intersections in the region. This list has helped focus their efforts on mitigating intersection crashes, consistent with the SHSP and other priorities. That same MPO, in the prior fiscal year, allocated $896,000 to HSIP projects, an amount the MPO has found insufficient to cover intersection crash needs. However, MPO relationships with the Districts and with TESS ensure that MPO perspectives are brought forward in the HSIP planning process. In addition to representation on the HSIP Committee, MPO officials also conduct regular meetings with the District traffic engineering staff and with TESS staff administering the MassDOT HSIP. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that the Districts and TESS are aware of MPO concerns, updated on MPO efforts to program HSIP projects, and MPO feedback on HSIP projects.
In Illinois, some MPOs have demonstrated a desire to become more involved in assisting local agencies with safety planning and HSIP project development activities. The Champaign-Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study (CUUATS) has a safety philosophy, wherein the MPO developed a safety goal and remains strongly interested in further developing safety projects that reflect the organization’s desire to meet that goal. CUUATS analyzes safety data to help locals with grant applications, having developed its own analysis tools. The key to MPO involvement is BSE’s use and deployment of management and support tools, especially data portal access and clear program documentation. Additionally, MPOs provide support to local agencies in the process of completing HSIP applications.
In Illinois, some MPOs have demonstrated a desire to become more involved in assisting local agencies with safety planning and HSIP project development activities.
States deliver local-agency projects with varying levels of support. Some States facilitate HSIP project applications, funding allocations, and design coordination, while others participate directly in the delivery process by providing the local agency with access to the State’s bidding services, as is done in Illinois.
The Alaska DOT&PF undertakes design (or manages consulting designers) and delivers local projects with the exception of those projects where the City of Anchorage will conduct design engineering and construction engineering and management functions. This improves the project outcomes, including consistency in the application of engineering standards and the quality of materials and construction.
In some cases, local safety project delivery can be carried out more efficiently with State DOT assistance. In Massachusetts, where right-of-way can be complicated by the historic nature of records, MassDOT’s Right-of-Way (ROW) Bureau works through its Community Compliance Section to ensure that right-of-way acquisition for Local Public Agency (LPA) projects is conducted in compliance with the Uniform Act. The Bureau provides training on the ROW processes because LPAs are responsible for the ROW acquisition process for LPA-owned facilities. MassDOT-funded projects are not advertised for bids until the Bureau has issued a ROW certificate, underscoring the importance of LPA coordination and compliance for MassDOT-funded projects. MassDOT attention to ROW policies and procedures has significantly shortened the timeframe for ROW delivery to less than nine months in most cases.
Some Host States, such as North Carolina, Utah, and Alaska, have limited roadway miles owned and operated by local agencies, but still focus efforts on local agency partnerships. Other States, such as Oregon, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, made extensive use of local agency partnerships to address local road safety issues.
The Alaska DOT&PF undertakes design (or manages consulting designers) and delivers local projects with the exception of projects in Anchorage. UDOT provides network screening and data analysis for local agencies, as well as a toolbox of proven safety countermeasures. NCDOT partners with the UNC-HSRC to deliver the North Carolina Local Safety Partnership, a pilot program to introduce communities to the concepts required to implement low-cost safety improvements in a data-driven traffic engineering program.
In New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the regional planning authorities provide the State DOTs with support in identifying projects, coordinating with local agencies to procure contract documents, and other activities necessary to prepare a project for contract advertisement. In Massachusetts, the regional planning authorities have specific responsibilities related to the programming of projects. MassDOT eliminates cost as a barrier to local agency use of the HSIP by providing the 10 percent federally matching funds against the HSIP portion of funds.
In Illinois and Oregon, established county and municipal governments are engaged with regional DOT contacts. In Oregon, this is done with the All Roads Transportation Safety Program, an effort that specifically targets local engagement and a jurisdictionally-blind project submission and screening process. In Illinois, some MPOs have demonstrated a desire to become more involved in assisting local agencies with safety planning and HSIP project development activities.
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