Baltimore County will perform safety audits along 17 roads, many in the western part of the county, thanks to a $3.5 million federal grant, officials recently announced.

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All program, or SS4A.

A yet-to-be-determined external contractor will perform the audits. The contractor will not make infrastructure changes to the roadways but will develop proposals aimed at increasing safety for drivers and pedestrians.

“Investing in our roadways is not just about improving infrastructure, but prioritizing the safety and well-being of our residents and communities,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in an emailed press release. “We are grateful to our federal and state partners for supporting these critical planning projects and helping to ensure Baltimore County’s roads are safe for years to come.”

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Established by the 2021 bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, SS4A will dole out $5 billion over five years to move federal and local roadway safety initiatives forward.

Baltimore City recently announced that it will receive more than $9 million through the program for public engagement and outreach initiatives tied to its Complete Streets program, which aims to rethink how roadways are designed to increase safety and efficiency for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. At a presentation last fall to state transportation officials, Olszewski was bullish on pursuing similar Complete Streets work in the county and touted his office’s investments in traffic-calming projects.

Since the passage of a city ordinance in 2018 and creation of the Complete Streets manual in 2021, the shift in roadway philosophy has seen supporters and critics. At an October City Council hearing, some residents rallied behind the policy as an important safety initiative while others took shots at it as an ineffective and inequitable government overstep.

The corridors that the county plans to study are:

Central County

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Eastern County

Western County

The money is just one slice of a $28 million pie that SS4A is sending to 17 counties and municipalities in Maryland.

Baltimore City is getting the most funds, followed by the city of Mount Rainier in Prince George’s County, just northeast of the Washington, D.C., line. They’ll receive roughly $9.7 million to implement traffic-calming measures, bicycle network improvements, sidewalk enhancements and pedestrian safety measures near Mount Rainier Elementary School.

In a separate press release, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld commended local leaders on their spending plans. He said Prince George’s has “historically suffered from a disproportionate number of tragic roadway injuries and fatalities.”

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“I’m extremely excited that we would get a portion of this grant,” said Baltimore County Councilman Julian E. Jones Jr., who represents District 4. “I look forward to any effort to improve the safety of these roads.”

Jones pointed to a number of safety concerns in his district as areas for continued work and investment, including a widening project on Windsor Mill Road that would add gutters, curbs and sidewalks along sections of the road that lack them.

Liberty Road has been the site of multiple road fatalities in recent years, he said, and roads near certain schools lack sidewalks for kids to walk to school safely.

“We’re doing what we can, but I wish we could do more,” Jones said.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues. 

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