Florida communities receive about $65 million from federal grant to help makes streets safer

Communities across Florida received approximately $65 million in federal grants to help make roads safer, whether you walk, bike, or drive.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday awarded about $800 million statewide as part of the first round of funding for the Safe Roads and Roads for All grant awards. The City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Polk County, Sarasota County, Manatee County, Pinellas County, Hernando County and the City of Port Richey all received grant funds to assist with action planning and infrastructure works.

Walking on the streets of the Tampa Bay area is becoming increasingly deadly. Forward Pinellas, the statewide land use and transportation planning authority for Pinellas County, said its communities want to take an inventory of high-injury roads.

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“In an Oldsmar case, you’re one of the communities, in that community a child was killed crossing the street on St. Petersburg Drive. In Dunedin, one of the other communities, we just had a tragic death of someone who was killed walking at a crosswalk,” said Whit Blanton, chief executive of Forward Pinellas.

Mobility planners for the city of Tampa agree with the federal government to label traffic deaths as a public health crisis.

“I can tell you that in 2021 we saw 81 deaths, which was almost double the normal annual average,” said Alana Brasier, the chief planner for the City of Tampa’s Department of Mobility. “It was a nationwide increase, so it wasn’t just us. Everywhere there has been a huge increase in their deaths.”

City of Tampa receives $20 million in federal grants.

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“We will focus resources on our injury-heavy network, where we see a higher prevalence of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads,” Brasier said.

She said the city will focus on its streets and also work with the state and county on pedestrian safety.

“Fast construction, so add more crosswalks, fill in sidewalk corners, add bike lanes if needed, improve street lighting,” Brasier said.

Forward Pinellas said the approximately $559,000 Pinellas County federal award means a lot. He said an average of two people are killed on the streets every day.

“This is a smaller dollar amount to create the projects that we could then either move on to next year or the year after, or we could prioritize through our own process with the funds already received,” Blanton said.

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The goal is to pick out the deadliest hotspots first and make them safer.

“We’ve had some good news lately as some of our serious injury accidents have gone down and that’s good news. But the pedestrian and bicycle deaths in particular have not followed this trend,” said Brasier.

Hillsborough County will receive approximately $19 million and Polk County will receive approximately $720,000 for its action plan. Manatee, Hernando and Sarasota counties and the city of Port Richey will all receive different amounts for safer roads.

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