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

Communities across Florida received about $65 million in federal grant money to make streets safer whether you walk, bike or drive.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded about $800 million nationwide Wednesday as part of the first round of funding for the Safe Streets 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 money from the grant to help with action planning and infrastructure work. 

Across the streets of the Tampa Bay area, walking is getting more deadly. Forward Pinellas, the county-wide land use and transportation planning agency for Pinellas County, said its municipalities want to do an inventory of high-injury roadways.

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"In an Oldsmar case, they're one of the communities, there was a child killed crossing the street on St. Petersburg Drive in that community. In Dunedin, one of the other communities, we just had a tragic fatality of someone who was killed walking in a crosswalk," said Whit Blanton, the executive director of Forward Pinellas.

Mobility planners with the City of Tampa agree with the federal government in calling traffic deaths a public health crisis.

"I can tell you that 2021, we saw 81 fatalities, which was almost double our normal year average," said Alana Brasier, the chief planner for the City of Tampa’s mobility department. "That was a nationwide uptick, so it wasn’t just us. It was everywhere that saw a huge increase in their fatalities."

The City of Tampa will receive $20 million in federal grant funding.

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"We’re going to focus the resources on our high injury network, which is where we see a higher prevalence of fatalities and severe injuries on our roads," said Brasier.

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

"Quick build treatments, so that’s more crosswalks, filling sidewalk gaps, adding bike lanes where needed, improving the street lighting," said Brasier.

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

"This is a smaller dollar amount to create the projects that we could then pursue either next year or in the year after, or we could prioritize through our own process using the funds we already get," said Blanton.

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

"We have had some good news lately in that some of our serious injury crashes have been declining and that's good news. But the pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, in particular, have not been following that trend," said Brasier.

Hillsborough County will receive about $19 million, and Polk County will get about $720,000 for its action planning. Manatee, Hernando and Sarasota counties and the city of Port Richey will all receive various amounts of funding for safer streets.