Fayetteville receives $25 million federal grant for road safety program

South School Avenue from MLK to 15th Street is one of five areas set to receive funding for safety improvements / File photo

FAYETTEVILLE — The city has received a $25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement five projects around town as part of a program called Safe Streets for All.

The money is part of $817 million awarded to cities around the country Wednesday through a bipartisan infrastructure program designed to help communities make safety improvements that may prevent deaths and serious injuries on the nation’s roadways.

Fayetteville’s award will help pay for $33.5 million worth of projects that were identified as part of a regional “Vision Zero” strategy. The city and University of Arkansas will also kick in $7.25 million and $1.25 million in local matching funding for the projects.

From the description of the Fayetteville project:

The City of Fayetteville is awarded funds to implement its Vision Zero strategy, which addresses safety problems in the City’s most critical transportation corridors. These roadways were constructed using outdated auto-oriented designs that invite high-speed driving and lack basic infrastructure for non-vehicular use. These roadways have been identified on Fayetteville’s high-injury network, which represents just 12 percent of Fayetteville’s roadway miles but accounts for 60 percent of fatal and serious-injury crashes.

This project will implement five major capital improvement projects on high-injury corridors, paired with a community-wide education and awareness campaign (funded as a supplemental planning and demonstration activity). The five major projects will implement Proven Safety Countermeasures including improved lighting and corridor access management; appropriate speed limits; roundabout installation; dedicated left- and right-turn lanes at intersections; and vulnerable road user countermeasures including raised medians, pedestrian refuge islands, road diets, sidewalks, bike lanes, rectangular rapid-flashing beacons, and crosswalk visibility enhancements.

Projects identified for the program include work on North College Avenue from Sycamore Street to Township Street; South School Avenue from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to 15th Street; Maple Street from Gregg Avenue to Garland Avenue; Joyce Boulevard from College Avenue to Crossover Road; and Gregg Avenue from North Street to Drake Street.

City of Fayetteville Public Works Director Chris Brown said the award is more than double the largest grant he can remember the city receiving for a project, and about 10 times the amount of federal funding the city might typically receive.

The funds will allow the city to move forward more quickly on some projects that had been in the works including the College Avenue and South School projects that might have required funding from a future bond issue. It also revived the Maple Street project that he said had stalled due to lack of funding, and will move along projects the city had hoped to start on Gregg Avenue and Joyce Boulevard.

Brown said it will likely take a few months for the federal funds to become available for use.

“We expect it to take a few months (to get started), but once we get going we’ll be authorized to start spending the money,” he said. “We’ll have consultants we’ll have to hire, and there will be environmental processes we’ll have to start with.”

The federal program requires cities who received grants to spend their share in five years.

The city’s award was one of 48 announced Wednesday as part of the program, and the $25 million was the second highest amount given as part of the project.

“It’s a good feeling for sure,” Brown said of the award. “I have to give credit to Dane (Eifling, city Mobility Coordinator) and Matt Mihalevich (Active Transportation Manager). Dane was the lead to write the grant, and lots of partners signed on and wrote letters of support. Lots of people worked really hard to make this happen.”