Greater Use of Highway Safety Funds Could Save States Money

Even as state transportation budgets across the country face severe shortfalls, most states have failed to take advantage of federal safety funding, according to a new report out from the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking.

The report examines state obligation rates for the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, which was created in 2006 and aims to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries through infrastructure, education, and enforcement.  This is a particularly useful program for states because the federal government picks up at least 90 percent of the tab for HSIP projects, compared to 80 percent for most federal transportation aid programs.

New Jersey is making more of an effort than most states to spend its authorized HSIP funds.

New Jersey is making more of an effort than most states to spend a certain type of federal safety funds.

New Jersey has been a national leader, spending almost 85 percent of its available HSIP funding through FY2008. The spending record for the rest of the region is far worse, an indication that New York and Connecticut are not prioritizing the program. (States have some flexibility in which federal transportation aid programs they choose to receive money through. For a review of the federal transportation funding process, see MTR‘s earlier coverage.)

Some states have complained that the requirements for the HSIP program are too onerous and make it difficult to spend available funds.  But as MTR wrote over the summer, the real issue seems to be that some transportation departments either don’t understand the program’s requirements or are reluctant to familiarize themselves with a new funding program.  By maximizing use of this program, states could stretch taxpayer dollars further.

The report also finds that only a tiny fraction of HSIP funding  — about $2 million of $1.1 billion obligated in FY2008 — has been spent on cycling and pedestrian projects, and outlines strategies that advocates can use to increase this number.

Image: TSTC graph using data from League of American Bicyclists report.

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