El Paso will use a $9.9 million U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) grant to improve safety along the North Yarbrough Drive corridor, a major north-south road that runs between Interstate 10 and U.S. Route 62 on the city’s east side.
El Paso is one of 385 communities receiving grants from USDOT’s five-year, $5 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) program. The federal agency announced SS4A grants worth a combined $817 million in December.
The funds will help implement the city’s Vision Zero strategy, which seeks to reduce roadway deaths to zero across El Paso. Other cities such as Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia have also committed to Vision Zero and received SS4A grants.
Between 2017 and 2021, almost 200 pedestrians were killed on El Paso roadways, and 649 were seriously injured, according to the Vision Zero draft action plan.
The Gateway West-Yarbrough intersection had the second-highest frequency of severe crashes in that time, the document shows. North Yarbrough Drive corridor also has the region’s second-highest number of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists, USDOT officials said.
Dangers posed by the roadway segment include long distances between signalized crossings, wide curb radiuses at intersections, a lack of ADA ramps and missing or narrow bike lanes.
The funds will be used to “transform” the corridor in line with the city’s Intersection Safety Improvement Program — a partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso launched in 2022 that identifies high priority intersections based on crash frequency.
The improvements will address right-angle, left turn, and rear-end crashes, and also tackle speeding, disregard for traffic signals and inattentive drivers. The city will also install signage along El Paso’s High Injury Networks. The project has a total cost of $12.3 million.
The grant will also support the launch of a Safe Routes to School Program that includes an audit of the schools that have the highest crash rates within their school zone.
El Paso is the 18th most dangerous U.S. metro area for walking, driving, or riding a bike based on the number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries, according to a 2022 study by Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose focus includes urban planning.
USDOT has already allocated $1.7 billion this year from the SS4A program. The application window for the next round of SS4A grants will open in February of 2024.
Photo courtesy of the city of Colorado Springs