To improve roadway safety, better connect neighborhoods, and make Providence city streets safer for all users, Rhode Island's Congressional delegation, along with Mayor Brett Smiley, announced a new $27.2 million federal grant Jan. 23 under the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program.
U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Congressman David Cicilline, helped create the program through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and made $5 billion in competitive SS4A funding available.
Administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the program grants dedicated federal funds to support regional and local road safety projects and strategies across the country that will make busy roadways safer, and help prevent deaths and serious injuries.
Providence will use the grant money to advance engineering and systemic construction of the city's Urban Trail Network, a project to help create last-mile connections to residential, employment and cultural activity centers between the city's 25 neighborhoods while reducing serious crashes involving road users. The trails are a combination of on-road and road-adjacent protected bicycle lanes and shared-use pathways, neighborhood greenways on low volume streets and off-road shared use byways.
The Rhode Island capital city's Great Streets initiative proposes an Urban Trail Network to make Providence more walkable and bike-friendly, at the same time revitalizing and connecting its neighborhoods with a safe transportation system that serves everyone.
"This is a smart investment in preventing traffic accidents, improving our streets, and connecting neighborhoods," said Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD). "This federal funding will help Providence reach its infrastructure and mobility goals and make our streets safer and more efficient."
Reed's Rhode Island colleagues in Washington also believe the federal grant to be a major boost to the health and well-being of Providence residents and visitors and highlight the benefits of the IIJA.
"The Safe Streets and Roads for All grant is another example of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivering for Rhode Islanders," noted Whitehouse. "This federal funding will support planning and infrastructure improvements that keep Providence's streets safe and accessible to all who visit and live in our capital city."
Congressman Cicilline described the federal grant as "a smart, forward-thinking investment," adding that it will "improve the city's transportation network and make our streets safer for everyone — whether you bike, walk, drive or ride."
New England Traffic Deaths On the Rise
Roadway safety across the United States is an area of grave national concern, Reed said in a news release from his office, citing that in 2021 alone, more than 42,000 people were killed in road traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While NHTSA statistics released in December showed traffic deaths decreased by 0.2 percent nationwide in the first nine months of 2022, they increased by 5 percent in New England during that same period.
Figures show that between 2018 and 2021, there were 1,100 crashes involving people walking or biking, with 260 serious injuries and eight fatalities in the Rhode Island capital. As a result, Providence has developed a preliminary list of city-controlled corridors and intersections to improve that were prioritized based on needs related to safety, accessibility, equity and connectivity.
Under the IIJA law, U.S. cities and towns can apply for federal SS4A grants. The program is designed to grant $1 billion annually over five years and is open to all communities regardless of size to help them ensure safe, accessible streets and roadways for everyone.
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