By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

AAA urges Trump to focus on deteriorating roadways

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WILKES-BARRE — AAA Mid-Atlantic is urging the Trump administration to create an infrastructure program to fix the nation’s deteriorating roadways — a move it says that could reduce fatalities and serious injuries in the U.S.

AAA put a number on how effective the program could be — it claims it could save 63,700 lives and prevent 353,560 serious injuries over a 20-year period.

Those numbers are according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. With the U.S. ranked nearly last among high-income nations in annual traffic fatalities, which continue to rise, AAA wants the Trump administration to make repairing and maintaining America’s roadways a top priority.

“We can save tens of thousands of lives and make our roadways safer by investing in improvements that we already know exist,” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director. “Now is the time to act by targeting limited resources where they will have the greatest impact.”

With an investment of $146 billion, the report recommends six roadway improvements with the greatest potential to reduce both the likelihood and consequences of crashes. According to the group, the following improvements would account for 95 percent of anticipated crash reduction:

• Convert key intersections into roundabouts. AAA says the design of a roundabout is such that the conflicts between vehicles that do occur are at flat angles and are unlikely to result in potentially severe right-angle collisions. Because of these factors, AAA says roundabouts generally experience both lower crash frequencies and severity than conventional intersections. The Highway Safety Manual indicates that converting a stop-controlled intersection to a roundabout can reduce injury crashes by 82 percent, while converting a signalized intersection to a roundabout can reduce injury crashes by 78 percent.

• Install roadside barriers and clear roadside objects. Analysis results indicate that installing roadside barriers should constitute the largest component of the improvement program, while clearing roadside objects would have the highest benefit-cost ratio.

• Add sidewalks and signalized pedestrian crossing on the majority of roads. Research has shown that improving an existing pedestrian crossing facility of poor quality can reduce fatal and serious injury crashes by 50 percent.

• Install median barriers on divided highways. Median cable barriers are used to prevent vehicles from crossing through the median and colliding with an opposing vehicle. Median barrier cable is effective in reducing fatalities and serious injuries because it essentially reduces the severity of crashes that occur when a driver leaves the travel lanes and enters the median.

• Install shoulder and center-line rumble strips. Shoulder rumble strips are used to alert drivers who begin to run off the road and, therefore, reduce run-off-the-road crashes. Center-line rumble strips are used on undivided roads to alert drivers that they are crossing the roadway center-line and, therefore, reduce the cross-center-line crashes.

• Pave and widen shoulders. Shoulders can reduce the likelihood of crashes in several ways, including providing a location for emergency stops and broken down vehicles, providing a space for drivers of errant vehicles to make steering corrections and providing space for evasive maneuvers.

Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said highway infrastructure investments play a prominent role in the national strategy to decrease traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

“Paired with other transportation improvements and safety programs — including technology advancements, stronger traffic laws, increased enforcement, effective public education and better emergency medical services — these investments will move the U.S. closer to our goal of zero deaths on our roadways,” Tidwell said.

In Pennsylvania

• In 2015 there were 717 fatalities in Pennsylvania on roadway types included in the AAA Foundation study, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all roadway fatalities in the Commonwealth.

• The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) currently has more than 35 road construction projects underway in Luzerne county, many in line with AAA’s recommendations — existing signal improvements, median barriers, safety improvements.

• Current investments in highway infrastructure improvements in the U.S. are substantially lower than what is necessary to fix the nation’s aging roads and bridges. While the $146 billion investment outlined in the report will have a significant national-level impact, AAA says increased investment is required at all levels of government to prevent an infrastructure crisis.

AAA recommends state and local governments take action to:

• Prioritize safer highway design, improve road conditions and eliminate roadside hazards;

• Align highway and street improvements with priority needs; and

• Fund effective, ongoing clean-up of roadway debris.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.