On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced that the state DOT is awarding $21.2 million in federal highway safety funds over three years to nine projects in New York City that all include big safety improvements for biking and walking. Advocates welcomed the news, but still have questions about whether the state is allocating enough money to active transportation projects statewide.
The New York City awards are:
- $4 million for 1.3 miles of Atlantic Avenue between Georgia Avenue and Conduit Boulevard in Brooklyn. The project features median extensions at seven intersections, turn restrictions, and new street trees to slow driver speeds.
- $900,000 for 2.4 miles of Bruckner Boulevard between Bronx River Avenue and East 132nd Street in the Bronx to establish what the governor’s press release calls “a north/south pedestrian and bicycle corridor.”
- $800,000 for East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. This project widens and installs pedestrian islands, clarifies complex intersections, studies signal timing for potential phasing changes and new signals, and narrows wide travel lanes.
- $4 million for the third phase of a project on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, for 0.6 miles between East 171st Street and East 175th Street. This road reconstruction will add medians, pedestrian refuges, bike lane buffers and bollards.
- $4 million for 0.7 miles of Fourth Avenue from 33rd to 47th Streets in Brooklyn. This project widens medians to up to 19 feet to include planted areas and pedestrian refuges.
- $4 million for Tillary and Adams Streets in Brooklyn. Improvements include bike lanes and protected paths, larger pedestrian islands, and shorter crossings.
- $1 million for 0.4 miles of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard between West 117th and 110th Streets. This project will construct concrete pedestrian islands that were installed last year with paint and other low-cost materials.
- $500,000 for one mile of Riverside Drive between West 116th and 135th Streets. The project will add crosswalks and bicycle markings, as well as pedestrian islands and curb extensions at 116th and Riverside.
- $2 million for 4.3 miles of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. This project, managed by state DOT, includes new traffic signals and pedestrian countdown clocks, modified signal timing, pedestrian islands, and turn restrictions.
These grants are funded by the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. The state’s announcement covers 2015 through 2017, the final three fiscal years funded by the latest federal transportation bill.
New Yorkers for Active Transportation, a coalition managed by Parks & Trails New York, the New York Bicycling Coalition, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, issued a statement welcoming Cuomo’s announcement. “New York currently lags behind neighboring states in the funding sources it directs to active transportation projects,” the group said, noting that it had urged the state to dedicate more of its highway safety grants to bicycle and pedestrian projects. “That makes actions like this announcement all the more important.”
But there are open questions about the funding. “We’re still trying to figure out the numbers,” said Nadine Lemmon of Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “When you do the math, it doesn’t appear that the full three-year allocation has been distributed in this round of funding.”
The New York City projects comprise more than a quarter of the $75.6 million announced by the governor for 33 projects statewide over three years — that’s about $25.2 million annually.
Of the 33 projects, 20 include pedestrian improvements, and eight of those 20 have bicycle elements, according to state DOT. The state does not break out how much of each grant is spent on bike and pedestrian improvements, but advocates have been calling for better reporting to see if state DOT is living up to the “fair share for safety” principle. In New York, bicyclists and pedestrians comprise 27 percent of traffic fatalities; advocates argue that the state should be able to show that at least 27 percent of highway safety funds are dedicated to improving safety for those road users.
The federal government gives New York approximately $95 million in HSIP funds, give or take a few million, each year.
New York divides its HSIP money into separate pots. As required by the federal government, about 10 to 15 percent is for rail grade crossing improvements, planning and research, and funding the Transportation Alternatives program, according to state DOT. Of the remaining funds, $45 million is distributed to state DOT’s more auto-oriented regional districts, and approximately $25 million is for the competitive grant program, which had its awards announced this week.
HSIP was one of the few programs for walking and biking projects that saw an increase in funding from the MAP-21 transportation bill. Before MAP-21, DOT says it received about $45 million annually from HSIP, all of which was allocated to its regional districts.
Another major program, Transportation Alternatives, was effectively cut by 30 percent in MAP-21. Advocates have called on Governor Cuomo to replace the federal cuts and expand that program with state dollars. Earlier this year, Cuomo sidestepped this request and announced grants from the reduced program just as advocates were making their case in Albany.
This post has been updated with information from state DOT about HSIP allocations.