ST. PAUL – Today, the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee discussed a pair of bills authored by Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-New Brighton) to enhance transportation safety for Minnesota’s most vulnerable users – people who bike, walk, roll and work on our roadways.
The committee heard Rep. Bernardy’s legislation to invest another $10 million in the Active Transportation Program she got passed into law in 2017. Last session she passed funding to invest $5 million into this program to make it safer for people of all ages and abilities to move about safely and freely in our communities.
“Every multimodal transportation plan, every climate action plan, and every public health plan says we need to facilitate more biking and walking and that the chosen goals and strategies to do that need to be implemented in an equitable way at local, regional, state, and national levels,” stated Rep. Bernardy. “We must make the needed investment to make it safe for people of all ages and abilities to move about safely whether they bike, walk, or roll.”
At the hearing, Jenifer McGuire, a Saint Anthony resident, professor, and mother, shared her story about not being able to safely bike to destinations such as work and moving about safely throughout the community.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) Active Transportation program was established in 2017 when Rep. Bernardy’s bill was signed into law. It helps to improve active transportation conditions in communities throughout the state. This includes engaging communities, developing plans, and constructing safe and comfortable infrastructure. Eligible projects are designed to both improve safety and the ability of individuals to bike, walk, and roll throughout their community. The program makes an emphasis on working with communities that are historically and currently underrepresented in local and regional planning.
The second bill focuses on construction workers who work in construction zones. They are vulnerable every day as they go to work building and maintaining our roadways.
“We must do all we can to keep everyone safe, including our construction workers so they can return home to their loved ones at the end of each workday,” said Rep. Bernardy. “Speeding-related injuries and fatalities are on the rise. We know any interaction between vehicles and pedestrians becomes more dangerous and more lethal at higher speeds, which is why it’s so important we address these behaviors on the road proactively with the Construction Zone Safety Pilot program.”
Professor Frank Douma, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, shared information that 83% strongly or somewhat support the implementation of this type of safety program in our construction zones.
Speed is one of the most common contributing factors to traffic accidents in Minnesota and the problem of excessive speed has increased during the pandemic. In 2021 there were 162 speed-related deaths in the state, a 33% increase from 2020 and 116% increase from 2019. Speed was cited as a factor in at least 1/3 of these fatalities. This is a constant risk in work zones where construction workers are in extremely close proximity to vehicle traffic.
The bills are being considered for possible inclusion in a future Transportation package of legislation. Materials from the committee hearing can be found on the committee website.