Safety and livability are among the key factors being considered as the federal government awards $1.5 billion in discretionary grant money for transportation projects as part of this year’s economic stimulus package, according to Sasha Johnson, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“A key mission of ours is to make communities more livable so people can walk or bicycle from their homes to nearby commercial centers, bus stops or commuter rail stations,” she said.
The department will also push for these priorities as Congress tackles the reauthorization of the surface transportation program. And with other priorities and programs competing for dollars in the federal budget, it’s hard to predict how much money will be dedicated to making dangerous streets safer.
For people who love to walk, such as Verlene Benzing, any improvements in road designs to make them safer for pedestrians can’t come soon enough. Now 68, she still walks regularly with friends two years after she lost her husband, Norman.
She and Norman used to walk all over town “miles and miles at a time.” Now, she said, she rarely goes more than three miles. But she never goes near a particularly hazardous stretch of busy road with its narrow strip of sidewalk that changed her life forever.
“I do not walk on Orange Avenue,” said Benzing.
Sean Holton is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Fla.