$5M grant aimed at reversing 'crisis on our roadways'

As concerns mount over a post-pandemic spike in crashes, the Chicago region this week received a $5 million grant aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The funding, which includes $3.9 million from the federal government, will jump-start localized plans for counties that identify safety issues and offer solutions.

The program is dubbed the Safe Travel for All Roadmap and "will be transformative for the safety of everyone in our region, especially our most vulnerable travelers," Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Executive Director Erin Aleman said in a statement.

"We look forward to working with our partners to make critical improvements in our communities and save lives."

The effort dovetails with a U.S. Department of Transportation push to reverse what Secretary Pete Buttigieg called a "national crisis on our roadways."

Nationwide, traffic deaths had decreased steadily until the pandemic reversed that trend, with an estimated 42,915 people perishing in 2021, the DOT reported.

In Illinois, 1,010 people died in traffic crashes in 2019, Illinois Department of Transportation data showed. That rose to 1,196 in 2020 despite a travel decline related to COVID-19. In 2021 and 2022, fatalities reached 1,334 and 1,269, respectively.

Buttigieg on Friday issued a Roadway Safety Call to Action to states, local governments, businesses and advocacy groups to help save lives.

What does that entail? Here are some examples:

• 3M is working with road departments on reflective signage and lane markings to make hazardous curves safer and bike lanes more visible.

• The League of American Bicyclists is providing advice to municipalities and others on reducing road hazards to cyclists.

• UPS has pledged to install automatic emergency braking systems on a segment of new trucks it buys.

Close to home, CMAP said the grant will pay for technical assistance to help Cook and the collar counties each create a unique safety action plan.

Ideas could range from connecting walking and biking trails to changing speeds on high-crash roads.

As of Friday, IDOT reported 60 crashes that killed 67 people. Of those, 27 were in Cook County.

CMAP applied for the grant along with IDOT. The state will contribute $434,000, and Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties collectively will provide $540,000 in matching funds.

To learn more, go to

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