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Working Together: Kentucky’s approach to winning Safe Streets and Roads for All Grants

BOZEMAN, MONTANA – 7/31/23 – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program is living up to its title in the state of Kentucky.

By taking a consortium approach, the Kentucky Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) is assisting local agencies in leveraging SS4A funding to bring road safety improvements to its 60,000 miles of locally owned roadway.

“When we look at federal grant programs, our rural cities and counties do not have the available staffing to apply for and administer some of these (programs) on their own,” said Adam Kirk, Safety Circuit Rider at the Kentucky LTAP and local government outreach engineer in the Technology Transfer Program (T2) at the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).

“They also just don’t have the budget or the overhead to pursue some of these funding opportunities,” he added. “Because of that, we looked at our regional planning offices, which are our area development districts (ADDs). They have good relationships with all the counties and cities and the State DOT.”

Kentucky has 15 ADDs, each with its own transportation planner. The LTAP worked with the ADDs to submit applications for SS4A funding last year.

“We got 75 percent of the state covered within that first round,” Kirk said, noting the remaining ADDs recently submitted applications for the second round of funding.

The $1 billion per year program awards eligible applying agencies with funding for projects that improve roadway safety, including action planning, implementation, and demonstration activities.

Putting the Data to Work

Safe Streets and Roads for All aims to reduce crashes by focusing on areas that have the highest number of traffic fatalities. The result is road safety improvements at locations that need them the most. But fatalities may be few and spread out across hundreds of miles of roadways in rural areas, making it difficult to demonstrate the significant safety problems that ultimately lead to fatalities in the first place.

To overcome this obstacle, the Kentucky LTAP utilized the consortium approach.

“Pursuing an action plan grant for multiple jurisdictions at one time through the ADDs, ensures that a higher number of hazardous conditions are addressed while allowing smaller communities to be competitive with larger urban areas,” said Martha Horseman, the director of the T2 at the KYTC and the Kentucky LTAP.

By working together, the Kentucky LTAP can identify and address roadway conditions and crash patterns that are similar among all the agencies within the same ADD.

“When the time comes, developing these consortiums will also allow us to utilize project bundling to implement improvements, providing the most cost effective methods to serve a wide area of the state,” Horseman added.

Paying the Match

Rural communities might be reluctant to apply for funding when a match is required. For SS4A, the match is 20 percent – a relatively heavy cost on rural communities with small budgets.

After communicating that  there are proven benefits to having an action plan, the KYTC stepped up and offered to pay the match for the rural communities in Kentucky.

“That’s when all the pieces fell into place and then everybody was on board,” Kirk said. “Everyone now sees SS4A as a really big opportunity for us to raise the overall standard of roadways statewide.”

The SS4A application deadline for 2023 has passed. A third notice of funding opportunity is expected in 2024. Find more information about the SS4A Grant Program here.


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