Senate Republicans kill Libby’s pedestrian safety bill

Posted: February 08, 2018 | Senator Libby

AUGUSTA–On Thursday, Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted against a bill to improve pedestrian safety in a party-line vote. LD 584, “An Act To Create the Fund for Municipalities To Improve Pedestrian Safety,” sponsored by Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nate Libby of Lewiston, would increase funds available to municipalities to implement critical capital improvement projects for pedestrian safety.

The legislation would provide state matching funds for municipal pedestrian safety projects, such as installation of rapid flashing beacons, highly reflective crosswalk paint, bumpouts or pedestrian refuge medians. However, if a project is in an area identified as a dangerous intersection, the full cost would come from state funds. Revenue for the fund would come from year-end unspent balances from the Multi-Modal account, funds designated for pedestrian safety purposes. The Maine DOT would award these funds on a competitive grant basis.

“Last year was the deadliest year for pedestrians in over two decades. As lawmakers, we’re taking action to address the opiate crisis and the workforce crisis, but why can’t we address the pedestrian safety crisis? Each year, we lose more pedestrians in vehicular accidents. If we don’t take action now, the trend will only get worse,” said Sen. Libby. “The data is clear and the funds are available. There is no reason not to support this commonsense, revenue-neutral funding bill.”

Sen. Libby introduced this legislation in response to the death of Lewiston Middle School student Jayden Cho-Sargent, who was killed by a vehicle on his way to school. In the wake of Cho-Sargent’s death, the community has called for significant improvements to pedestrian safety. In fact, 2017 was the deadliest year for pedestrians in Maine in over two decades, with 20 deaths by year end.

Many 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, it was not widely promoted amongst municipalities and therefore underutilized.

“No town or city should experience more devastating losses because they cannot afford to make necessary safety improvements,” said Sen. Libby. “Creating a modest fund to support these safety improvement projects is the least we can do for our constituents. As lawmakers, we have the opportunity to take action to prevent additional losses. I’m incredibly disappointed by the Senate’s vote today.”

LD 584 now heads to the House for initial votes, although final passage is unlikely.