Monday, February 17, 2014

Funding for Road Safety in Delaware: DelDOT Responds

Bike Delaware recently published the first in a series of articles concerning road safety in Delaware, especially as it relates to the different funding types for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Road Safety in Delaware: How We Can Reduce the Number of Dead Pedestrians (Part 1)
Road Safety in Delaware: How We Can Reduce the Number of Dead Pedestrians (Part 1) - See more at: http://www.bikede.org/2014/02/04/dead-pedestrians/#sthash.ZJ9Omcn5.dpuf
Road Safety in Delaware: How We Can Reduce the Number of Dead Pedestrians (Part 1) - See more at: http://www.bikede.org/2014/02/04/dead-pedestrians/#sthash.ZJ9Omcn5.dpuf

We commend Bike Delaware for raising awareness, and putting a strong focus on non-motorized safety and spending. However, though educational and informative on many fronts, we felt it necessary to publish DelDOT's response to help clarify several points in the article.

Mark Luszcz, P.E., PTOE, DelDOT
Mark Luszcz, DelDOT's Chief Traffic Engineer wrote:

1. From your article: “Road safety in Delaware (just as everywhere else) is primarily funded through a federal program called the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).” This is not entirely true. Many different sources of funding are used to improve road safety in Delaware. Just one example: I spent many years as both a consultant and DelDOT employee working on the planning, design, and implementation of the South Governors Avenue Project in Dover. This 1.5 mile upgrade included the addition of bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, transit stops, and a two-way center-turn lane. This project cost many millions of dollars (not HSIP), years of staff effort, and coordination with hundreds of local residents, businesses, and property owners. The bicycle, pedestrian, and transit safety and operational upgrades were at least as important, if not more so, than the motor vehicle upgrades. Similar projects include the SR 54 Project (completed in 2012) and the SR 26 Project (recently started).

2. You are correct about the cluster analysis, which is one of our longstanding, primary tools for identifying, analyzing, and correcting safety issues. Because motor vehicle mode share vastly outweighs pedestrian and bicycle mode share, motor vehicle crash issues are what are almost exclusively identified through the Hazard Elimination Program, which is a subset of our HSIP and uses the cluster analysis to identify site locations. However, since at least 2005, DelDOT has attempted to incorporate pedestrian improvements into HEP projects whenever possible, and has done so in a high percentage of those projects. For instance, if a left-turn motor vehicle crash problem at a traffic signal was identified through the cluster analysis, we will still consider and implement if possible pedestrian improvements such as new/upgraded crosswalks, curb ramps, and pedestrian countdown signals. For small projects like signal upgrades, these types of pedestrian improvements are often feasible. Bicycle improvements which often involve road widening are not feasible for this scale of project. Sometimes minor transit improvements can be incorporated as well, such as relocating a bus stop to a better location, or including a short piece of sidewalk. We do not get “credit” for these upgrades in the FMIS budget chart that you included.

3. In the late '90s and early 2000s, highway safety experts at the state and federal levels began to recognize that the cluster analysis had flaws, and should not be the only tool used in addressing crash problems and highway safety. This led to the federal requirement for states to adopt Strategic Highway Safety Plans. DelDOT’s first plan was adopted in 2006, and the current plan was adopted in 2010. The plan requires states to analyze many different crash types, compare to national crash rates, and select emphasis areas that either show a high percentage of crashes, or a higher percentage than the national average. Delaware’s plan is available online. It has 7 primary and 4 secondary emphasis areas. One of the emphasis areas is related to intersection safety. This is generally well suited to the cluster analysis. Another is related to run off the road crashes, which comprises 47 percent of fatal crashes in Delaware (2007-2008 data). These crashes are generally not found in clusters and are more susceptible to correction by systematic upgrades: upgrading the types of roads with these crashes, not just specific locations with a high number of crashes. Countermeasures include edge-line rumble strips, delineation of roadside obstacles, etc. Another emphasis area is related to pedestrian safety. We agree this is a major issue for Delaware highway safety, which is why the pedestrian/bike working group was formed. That group is attempting to better coordinate improvements through engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services. We believe one tool to attempt to address this issue is the use of pedestrian/bicycle safety audits, which you will further explain in your next article. Note that the Kirkwood Highway study is not the first of these conducted in Delaware, but the third. The first two were US 13/US 40 (Wilton Blvd/Llanglon Blvd. to SR 273), and SR 273 (US 13 to Newark). Without giving too much away for your next article, I wanted to note that the US 13/US 40 study, completed in 2009, resulted in several relatively small and one medium size project. Almost all short-term recommendations from that study have now been implemented, including additional warning signs, additional crosswalks/pedestrian signals, and the full lighting of the corridor from Wilton Boulevard to SR 273. The combined cost of the projects was over $1,400,000. HSIP budgets were not used, but a variety of other funding sources were.

4. One final example I would like to present is the implementation of almost 8 miles of bike lanes on US 13 in Dover. These lanes were created by narrowing the travel lanes and striping the bike lanes through a pavement and rehabilitation project. Several pedestrian upgrades were incorporated into this project as well (e.g., crosswalks, pedestrian signals, curb ramps). The bicycle lanes themselves were not cheap, as they required the resetting of the crown of the roadway and adjustment of signal heads at approximately 14 traffic signals. These major operational and safety upgrades for bicycles and pedestrians were funded by DelDOT’s Pavement & Rehabilitation Program. Not HSIP, or other funding sources that are primarily used for bicycle/pedestrian projects such as Transportation Enhancements/Transportation Alternatives, or the statewide trails initiative.

5. This response likely sounds a bit defensive and it probably is. My primary point is that DelDOT has spent a large amount of effort in the last 10 years to better accommodate and improve the safety of all road users, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. We do not necessarily do a great job of tallying up the costs or the results of some of those efforts, or publicizing them. Our current programs and projects are certainly not above criticism and we look forward to continuing our working relationship for the good of all road users in Delaware.

Thanks!
Mark Luszcz, P.E., PTOE
Chief Traffic Engineer
Delaware Department of Transportation

Funding Pools (aka small-medium size project slush funds) were another source of funding for on and off-road bicycling improvement projects, which helped fund Paper Mill Road's bike lanes about 10 years ago. These funds were eliminated a few years later, and without Bike Delaware's support, they have yet to be re-established. Fortunately, DelDOT has picked up some of the slack during Pave & Rehab operations, making improvements whenever feasible and within budget.

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