Libby bill to fund pedestrian improvements moves forward

Posted: January 19, 2018 | Senator Libby

A bill proposed by Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby of Lewiston to provide state matching funds to municipalities so they can implement improvements to pedestrian safety moved forward in the legislative process on Tuesday following a vote in the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

LD 584, “An Act To Create the Fund for Municipalities To Improve Pedestrian Safety,” would, as amended, create a fund that would cover 80 percent of a project’s costs, unless a project is in an area identified as a dangerous intersection, for which the full cost would come from the fund. The bill would also require the Maine Department of Transportation to inform municipalities of the existence of the fund every other year.

2017 was the most deadly year for pedestrians in Maine in 24 years with 17 deaths before the end of November. 22 pedestrian lives were lost in Maine in 1994. One of the pedestrians killed in a vehicular accident in 2016 was Lewiston Middle School student Jayden Cho-Sargent. The outpouring of support for improved pedestrian safety following Cho-Sargent’s death spurred Sen. Libby to introduce this legislation.

“Improvements to pedestrian safety have been consistently cut out of strained municipal budgets,” said Sen. Libby. “I don’t want one pedestrian life lost because a municipality couldn’t afford to make a needed improvement.”

Currently, towns and cities struggle to finance the most basic road maintenance and improvement projects. Pedestrian safety investments, including high visibility crosswalk paint, rapid-flashing beacons and other safety features are often beyond the reach of less affluent communities. While a similar program to the fund proposed in LD 584 has existed in the past, municipalities weren’t well-informed of its existence, and so didn’t know they could apply to it for funding.

“My heart breaks for Jayden’s family every day. No more families should have to feel the pain they’re going through,” said Sen. Libby. “I hope my colleagues in the House and the Senate will support this bill so our towns and cities can make the needed changes to protect Maine’s pedestrians and reverse the devastating upward trend of pedestrian deaths.”

LD 584 now heads to the Senate for initial votes. When the bill arrives in the Senate, Sen. Libby will amend the bill to include a $5 million appropriation from the Highway Fund for the new pedestrian safety program. This would be 0.015 percent of the current fiscal year’s $329 million budget for the Highway Fund.