Planning for Safety Projects Funded by the Federal Highway Administration By Seth Chalmers

Posted on February 27, 2013

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Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) safety projects are enabled financially through the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). These highway safety funds are made possible by a federal gas tax on fuel. When local governments, councils of governments (COGs), and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) plan to carry out some of these safety projects, the process often involves two stages.

The first stage requires the FHWA to sign off on any eligibility prerequisites. Determining eligibility typically involves justifying the scope and cost of the project, based on its potential for reducing or preventing crashes. To accomplish this, traffic engineers analysis crash data and apply crash reduction/modification factors to those crashes to determine the potential cost benefit. Another method is to use what FHWA calls a systematic approach or improvement. With this method, a known crash reduction treatment is applied to as many roads as the organization can afford. The systematic approach is more of a prevention tool. 

Once a road safety project receives FHWA approval, the government agency, COG, or MPO must then receive authorization by the local or state Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). COGs and MPOs submit project details to a local TIP, while a state agency, such as the Arizona Department of Transportation, would need approval from a State TIP (STIP). Contingent upon project scope, the submission may also need preliminary engineering information. Projects involving construction will require environmental, right-of-way, and utility approval and related documentation. After TIP or STIP officials sign off, the project may proceed to a contracting phase.

About the Author:

Seth Chalmers, formally President of Chalmers Engineering Services, Inc., possesses more than 29 years of experience providing civil and traffic engineering services. During his career, he has also overseen Arizona road safety projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s High Risk Rural Road Program and the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Mr. Chalmers recently accepted the Traffic Engineering Division Manager position with the Pima County Department of Transportation in Tucson, Arizona.

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