The Ohio Department of Transportation is making major changes to its Highway Safety Improvement Program to focus limited funding on fatal and serious injury crashes. We’re also creating a new program to encourage systemic or proactive safety investments to prevent specific high-severity crash types.
We’re making these changes because traffic deaths in Ohio have risen six of the past seven years. Focusing on severity and specific crash types and safety improvements will help us better target these crashes and align our investments with federal safety requirements focused on reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
These changes are also part of a national movement to adopt a Safe System approach. Safe System is a paradigm shift from eliminating crashes to eliminating fatal and serious injuries.
It acknowledges that people make mistakes and engineers have a responsibility to reduce crash severity by being more aggressive in using roadway design and operational changes instead of relying on drivers to change their behavior. Safe System also strives for a greater transportation balance that serves the needs of all road users, not just motorists.
To meet these goals, ODOT is making the following changes beginning this fall:
ODOT is changing the criteria for submitting applications. Priority will be given to locations with a higher severity of crashes or the potential for these crashes. Locations must have a minimum of three crashes per year and projects must be $250,000 or less.
Funding is available for construction only and must be completed within two years. Applications will be reviewed once every quarter. Link to more information on the Abbreviate Applications.
Beginning in September 2021, the minimum thresholds and scoring criteria will be changed. The minimum threshold for submitting a safety application will be three crashes per year with 30% of the crashes involving a fatality or injury. Projects with higher severity will get more points and projects addressing crash frequency and congestion, but lower severity, will receive fewer points.
ODOT will set target amounts for funding awarded each application cycle. The amount will be announced in advance of each round and based on available funding.
ODOT will also expand opportunities for communities with fewer financial resources. Projects in communities with higher levels of poverty can receive up to 10 points toward the project score. These communities may also be eligible for reduced local match.
ODOT will accept formal applications by September 30, 2021. Next year, there will be one application cycle. The deadline will be August 31, 2022. Link to more information on the Formal Applications.
Systemic Safety Application
In January 2022, ODOT will accept project applications that focus on preventing pedestrian and roadway departure crashes through systemic infrastructure improvements. These are two crash types linked to high severity crashes in Ohio.
Systemic safety improvements are meant to be proactive and widely implemented based on roadway features that have been associated with specific crash types. FHWA has identified a range of proven safety countermeasures that prevent these crashes, and ODOT wants to encourage widespread implementation of these safety improvements.
Project sponsors can request up to $2 million for pedestrian and $5 million for roadway departure safety improvements. Applications are due by January 31, 2022. Awards will be announced in March. Link to more information on the Systemic Safety Application
ODOT is incorporating bicycles and pedestrians into the speed study process. This includes making the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists criteria for lowering speeds and allowing agencies to use a lower threshold for calculating driver speeds (50th vs. 85th percentile) when making these decisions. These changes give agencies more tools to consider lowering speeds – especially in developed areas with more pedestrians and bicyclists. Link to more information on speed zone.
ODOT is also finalizing a new multi-modal design guide that Ohio agencies can use to consider the impact of roadway design on all road users – especially bicycles and pedestrians. Designs that incorporate bike lanes, curb bump outs, reduced curb radii, and leading pedestrian intervals have been shown to reduce speed-related crashes and improve safety for everyone. The guide is expected to be published in the summer of 2022.