Designing Safer Roads in Huntsville, Alabama, and All Over the Country
“America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better.”
In November of 2021, President Biden said these words and signed the hefty Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The world seemed to stop moving in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 forced everyone to stay home. Public transportation was void of passengers, commuting was nonexistent, and roadways were clear. There were fewer car crashes and roads seemed safer. Now, in 2023, we are moving more than ever. Roads are busy, trains are mobbed, and unfortunately, road safety is an issue again. But, changes are being made to make roads safer.
The infrastructure bill
Biden’s infrastructure bill is helping to battle Huntsville’s road safety issues, while also providing billions of dollars to cities and states all over the U.S. to upgrade and fix highway and bridge infrastructure. As part of the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), a Safe System Approach (SSA) has been developed and one major focus is on creating safer roads. The infrastructure of our roadways clearly impacts how people use them and also impacts safety.
The environment around a roadway, which includes intersections, as well as other transportation models, can also influence the safety of the roads and all road users – including pedestrians, cyclists, and those riding in various vehicles. The SSA is a plan that will implement innovative designs and multi-layered precautions, while improving and updating roadways around the country and increasing safety for all users. The goal of the NRSS and SSA is to mitigate current roadway risks and achieve zero roadway fatalities in the future. Repairing damaged and worn roads is one step in paving that pathway to safer roads.
Why are roads in North Alabama in such bad shape?
Wear and tear has affected the safety of roads and highways in North Alabama and has been a concern for many years. Many of Alabama’s roads and infrastructure systems need improvements. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act along with the Rebuild Alabama Act, signed in 2019, which required the Alabama Department Of Transportation to provide annual funds for local projects, will fund these necessary improvements.
Representative of the Alabama Department of Transportation, Tony Harris said, “The infrastructure act will enable the Alabama Department of Transportation to push forward with projects across the state aimed at safety, better bridges, resurfacing roadways and reducing congestion in big cities and small towns.” The extra funds are providing much needed updates and upgrades to roads, especially in northern Alabama.
Many roadways are in desperate need of repair due to erosion, especially on the Gulf Coast. A study in the journal, “Nature Climate Change” entitled Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion found that, “Ambient trends in shoreline dynamics, combined with coastal recession driven by sea level rise, could result in the near extinction of almost half of the world’s sandy beaches by the end of the century.” The authors followed up by saying that most of the threatened shorelines are found in densely populated areas and that there is a need to design and implement “effective adaptive measures.”
Another densely populated area is Huntsville, Alabama and the surrounding area. Huntsville, the county seat of Madison County, has seen major growth. It is not only one of the largest cities in Alabama but also an economic mecca for business. With major growth comes more traffic and city life. Effective adaptive measures must be taken to improve the quality of the roads affected by expansion and population growth to meet the needs of this growing city. The roads need to catch up and grow along with the businesses. Redesigning and upgrading the road systems will provide a great return on investment for this expanding city. Safer roads will lead to prosperity and success, but how will safer roads be built? The SSA is a guide.
Safe Roads – Safe System Approach
Safer roads are one of the objectives of the Safe System Approach. The principles of the SSA are that death and serious injuries are unacceptable, humans make mistakes, humans are vulnerable, responsibility is shared, safety is proactive, and redundancy is critical. The U.S. DOT plans to meet this objective by designing “roadway environments to mitigate human mistakes and account for injury tolerances, to encourage safer behaviors, and to facilitate safe travel by the most vulnerable users.”
In accordance with the objectives for safer roadways, the USDOT Federal Highway Administration has developed a number of proven road safety countermeasures which include strategies to reduce fatal crashes and serious injury. A collection of 28 countermeasures is available for all kinds of roads, and all road users. Each countermeasure addresses one specific safety area. The categories include:
- Speed Management
- Roadway Departure
Some examples of the countermeasures include speed cameras in areas where drivers tend to drive fast; dedicated bike lanes to protect vulnerable bikers; roadside design improvement for curves; adding roundabouts at historically dangerous intersections; and new lighting improvements. All transportation agencies throughout the country are being asked to implement the safety countermeasures to increase safety on U.S. roads and highways.
As these improvements and countermeasures are implemented and applied, drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians must be vigilant, aware, and responsible. If you or a loved one have been involved in a serious accident and need advice, Martin & Helms wants to help. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation. Our offices are based in Huntsville, but we have offices in Decatur, and serve Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama.
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