A Proactive Approach to Safety: Apply for an SS4A Grant

Whether your community already has a Vision Zero Action Plan in place or is just beginning to develop a safety plan, now is the time to take a proactive approach to safety that prevents deaths and serious injuries on our streets. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grants will provide $1 billion annually to “improve roadway safety by significantly reducing or eliminating roadway fatalities and serious injuries through safety action plan development and implementation focused on all users,” according to the Notice of Funding Opportunity released in May.

This new competitive grant program, created under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, comes not a moment too soon. Roadway fatalities and serious injuries in the United States are at a generational high, with more than 42,000 lives lost in 2021 and millions more irreparably changed by traffic violence. The spike in fatalities has been spurred on, in part, by bigger vehicles being driven aggressively by ever more distracted drivers. More importantly, the current roadway safety crisis is also the result of roads that positively invite speed and prioritize vehicles over people at every turn.

We can do better, and the SS4A grants can help by giving agencies a new funding source for developing comprehensive safety action plans and implementing projects in those plans. As the name suggests, this grant program incentivizes strategies that actually work to create safer streets and roads for all users—including the Safe System Approach, creating a positive safety culture, and deploying Complete Streets. SS4A requires a leadership commitment to achieving zero traffic deaths by a target year. Significantly, SS4A also places a heavy emphasis on equity, and ties into Administration priorities around underserved communities (Justice40), rural areas, and the agency’s own National Roadway Safety Strategy.

The deadline for the first round of applications is September 15, 2022 at 5:00 PM Eastern. We recommend you stay up-to-date on the latest details on the USDOT SS4A webpage.

We also recommend taking the steps below as you prepare your SS4A grant application.

choose the appropriate grant.

The SS4A grant program allows for funding at three different stages, to enable every community to get on board.

  1. Action Plan: Developing or updating a comprehensive safety action plan
  2. Supplemental Action Plan activities: Conducting planning, design, and development activities in support of an Action Plan.
  3. Implementation: Carrying out projects and strategies identified in an Action Plan.

 

For communities just starting to wonder why their traditional approach to transportation safety just isn’t working any more, SS4A will fund Action Plan Grants of between $200,000 and $5,000,000 for local, tribal, or regional government agencies. Action Plans are expected to include all the core elements recommended by folks like the Vision Zero Network and Road to Zero Coalition:

  • Leadership Commitment and Goal Setting
  • Planning Structure
  • Safety Analysis
  • Engagement and Collaboration
  • Equity Considerations
  • Policy and Process Changes
  • Strategy and Project Selections
  • Progress and Transparency

If you’re in a community that’s already taken that first step and realize you need to know a little bit more about what’s going on with crashes and where to focus interventions, there’s an opportunity to do that with Supplemental Action Plan strategies and activities. This might include a deeper dive into your crash data, feasibility studies and pilot projects for potential solutions, or an equity analysis that overlays your High Injury Network.   

And if your community already has an Action Plan in place and is ready to get to work on solutions, the SS4A program offers Implementation Grants of between $3,000,000 and $50,000,000. Projects must be in an existing Action Plan that can be self-certified to meet key criteria, and they need to be tied directly to identified safety issues and high crash/risk locations. There’s a strong emphasis on evaluation so the lessons learned from these projects can be applied elsewhere.  

CHECK IN ON SAFETY PLANNING IN YOUR REGION.

 The following entities are eligible to apply for grant funding through SS4A:

  • A metropolitan planning organization (MPO)
  • A political subdivision of a state (cities, towns, counties, special districts, and similar units of local government)
  • A federally recognized tribal government

The SS4A grant program encourages regional and/or multijurisdictional Action Plan applications. If you’re with a City or County entity, check in with surrounding communities and with the appropriate MPO or COG about any regional or multijurisdictional safety plan applications. If there are overlaps in your needs and goals, a joint application may make sense and is encouraged by USDOT—multiple planning applications in the same region may not be funded.

Each applicant on a joint application must have public commitment to an eventual goal of zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries from a high-ranking official and/or governing body in order to seek implementation funds. While SS4A funding is not available to state DOTs, a state DOT can participate in the safety planning process as a key partner and can provide a letter of support for an SS4A application.

REACH OUT TO US FOR HELP.

Please reach out to Toole Design staff at any point for help navigating SS4A and assessing the best approach to safety in your community. We are here to assist and advise clients at all stages and with all grant types. Our extensive history in planning and designing safe, equitable, and comfortable transportation networks in a wide variety of communities means our staff is equipped to help with the exact safety planning components outlined under SS4A. 

Toole Design has completed plans like this for numerous agencies in recent years, and we are available to assist with the following activities and more:

  • Coordinating a regional or multijurisdictional planning grant application
  • Evaluating your current safety plan for SS4A eligibility
  • Updating components of your safety action plan to meet the SS4A eligibility requirements
  • Advising on possible implementation projects from your safety plan
  • Developing an implementation grant application, if your plan meets the SS4A eligibility requirements
  • Recommending other funding sources for safety planning and projects

Our Sustainable Safety Practice Lead Sarah Abel is happy to schedule time for our staff to meet with you and help guide your community’s proactive approach to transportation safety. Throughout this process, we also recommend taking advantage of all the information that USDOT has provided, including informative webinars and detailed guidance on the application process and requirements. Anyone can submit technical questions to SS4A@dot.gov until August 15.

Sarah Abel's Headshot
Sustainable Safety Lead Sarah Abel

We look forward to working with our clients to make the most of this exciting new grant program. And the long-term hope is that SS4A helps build a proactive approach to safety into the fabric of every community, so every resource possible can be put toward prioritizing safety and preventing deaths and serious injuries on our roadways. That’s the real promise of SS4A—the promise of saving lives, especially among those most at risk.

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