The Federal Highway Administration argues that one way to reduce substantially the annual $230 billion national societal cost of motor vehicle crashes is to incorporate safety directly into the long-range transportation planning process. Because much of this planning in Virginia is conducted by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and planning district commissions (PDCs), it is appropriate to determine ways in which the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (which generally is responsible for roadway safety) may work with these organizations to integrate safety and planning.
A survey of Virginia MPOs/PDCs conducted in this study revealed a healthy interest in such integration: 83% of respondents included safety in their planning goals and objectives, 61% involved citizens in safety planning, and 86% (of those answering the particular question) indicated safety is a factor (or in the case of one respondent, the only factor) used to prioritize projects in the long-range plan. The survey also identified several barriers to such integration. Although respondents cited a lack of dedicated safety funding as the largest obstacle, other barriers cited included the difficulty of obtaining of crash data and a lack of adequate training for staff in areas such as geometric design, crash data acquisition, and human factors. Further, 44% of respondents [who answered the particular question] noted that before/after studies are not conducted to determine the efficacy of safety-related projects.
Accordingly, this study developed a Virginia-specific resource guide that VDOT district planning staff, MPOs, and PDCs can use to enhance the integration of safety into the planning process. This report (Volume I) describes the process used to develop the guide; the guide itself is provided in Volume II. The guide promotes the incorporation of safety into the planning process by providing numerous, specific examples rather than by exhorting agencies to perform such coordination.
Virginia is a diverse state composed of urban, suburban, and rural regions with varying degrees of reliance on local and state crash data systems. As a consequence, the opportunities to integrate safety and planning are themselves diverse, as reflected in the guide. Many solutions presented in the guide are feasible in some situations but not in others. For example, widening substandard high-speed travel lanes may be productive in a rural area, whereas an urban location might benefit from a reduction in the number of vehicle lanes and the addition of a bicycle path. Further, the guide identifies 16 funding sources for safety-related projects given that no funding source has universal applicability. By necessity, therefore, of the diverse examples provided in the guide, only some may be suitable for a given region.