Newsletter: Road Safety Audits

Community leaders in Michigan are being challenged today more than ever to finance road improvement projects that are both fiscally sound and consistent with community goals.

Getting a Road Safety Audit (RSA) may just be the leverage you need to maximize funding for your much-needed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) transportation project.

Public agencies, with a desire to improve the overall safety performance of roadways under their jurisdiction, can apply for an 80 percent grant for an RSA through the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Highway Safety Improvement Program. That same RSA can be used on future applications for safety funding to implement the improvements noted in the RSA.

“Some communities and their leaders may be a little hesitant about paying the initial cost of the RSA,” said Bret Taylor, a senior civil engineer with the Jackson County Department of Transportation. “But the RSA is a small investment to leverage additional funding.”

Many governmental entities have utilized RSAs to assist with determining roadway deficiencies, maintenance issues, and for planning future work that benefits transportation safety. Most audits are completed on existing roadways where there are planned improvements, but they can also be completed for new roadway construction.

The audits can be used in any phase of project development from planning and preliminary engineering to design and construction. RSAs can also be focused on pedestrians, work zones, intersections, or corridors.

Jackson County’s DOT recently received two RSA grants through MDOT. One has already led to a successful grant application and funding for a signal safety project. The other has outlined safety issues for a corridor that will need further evaluation down the road.

“We had a general idea of some of the safety issues but until you have an outside consultant evaluating everything, you don’t realize just how much you missed,” Taylor said. “We received a lot of valuable intel – from verification that there’s no good, easy way to fix this, to a simple thing like a roadway sign that doesn’t make sense.”

What is a Road Safety Audit?
A Road Safety Audit is a formal evaluation of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multi-disciplinary team to identify specific safety improvements.

The RSA is different than a traditional safety study in that it follows processes and procedures identified by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The objective of the RSA is to determine crash potential by identifying safety concerns that may pose a risk to all road users.

The primary goals are to determine what elements of the facility may present a safety concern and what opportunities exist to eliminate or mitigate identified safety concerns.

The RSA team is comprised of members with expertise in geometric design, traffic operations, and safety. The team uses day and night time field reviews, historical crash data and information gleaned from law enforcement and local authorities.

While performing an RSA, the team keeps all user groups in mind and assesses the road from their perspectives. Something deemed non-hazardous for one road user, like motorized vehicles, could be hazardous or deadly for pedestrians or cyclists.

In the final report, the concerns are identified, risks are prioritized, and mitigation measures are provided that include a range of low to high-cost recommendations. Overall, the process from beginning to end can take three to four months to complete, with the field reviews, analysis and report taking one or two months.

“What’s really valuable is having a report that summarizes all safety concerns on a project,” Taylor said. “We knew some of these, but it was not documented thoroughly.”

The first step of applying for the RSA grant is as simple as identifying a project. Don’t delay! Your RSA could also be used for MDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program grants in May.

“Having an outside consultant guiding us through the process and what to expect was very helpful for our engineering staff,” Taylor noted.

Do you have an upcoming project that would benefit from an RSA? Contact Julie Kroll, F&V’s Traffic Services Group manager and certified RSA facilitator, at 800.494.5202 or jkroll@fveng.com. She can assist you in completing a road safety audit and explore funding options for your project.