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Addressing Safety: Rural Regions Conduct Road Safety Audits

Date:
December 08, 2011
Topics:
2011, Case Studies, Excellence Awards, Resources, Safety

Guest post by Matt Buchanan, Community Development Planner, Mo-Kan Regional Council

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2011 issue of FHWA’s RSA Newsletter.

Three Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) in northwest Missouri have recently partnered to initiate a regional Road Safety Audit (RSA) program. The Mo-Kan Regional Council in St. Joseph, the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments (NWMORCOG) in Maryville, and the Green Hills Regional Planning Commission in Trenton partnered with FHWA and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to ensure the success of their RSA program.

The process of initiating an RSA program began when Mo-Kan contacted FHWA about coordinating a training workshop in St. Joseph. FHWA provided the two day training to planners, traffic engineers, and elected officials who were taught the basic concepts needed to perform formal RSAs. During the second day of the training, workshop participants traveled into the field to conduct “mini” RSAs, where they could put their newly acquired skills to the test.

After the training, RPC planners felt fully prepared to pursue a comprehensive RSA program to benefit the greater northwest Missouri region. The RPCs also took advantage of FHWA’s RSA Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program to conduct their first audit in June, which took place at an intersection outside Chillicothe, MO. Kevin Murphy, a transportation planner with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) in Philadelphia, PA traveled to Missouri to help coordinate the Chillicothe RSA. “I was excited to have been selected for the P2P program, but never expected to get more out of it than I gave. Working with the great folks of Chillicothe and the local planning agencies was a fun learning experience, and from it I gained a new perspective on the RSA process that will be valuable in my work in the Philadelphia area,” he said. Murphy made a good resource for the northwest Missouri RPCs, not only because of his experience conducting RSAs, but also because he too focuses on regional planning through his work at DVRPC.

According to Tom Bliss, Mo-Kan’s Executive Director, “RSAs are a natural fit with RPCs. Our Transportation Advisory Committees (TACs) are made up of local citizens and elected officials who are tasked with identifying the regions’ transportation priorities, including safety concerns. With their input, we can identify the roadways that are in most need of a safety examination.” RPCs are also practical organizations to conduct RSAs because they can offer resources afterward to help implement the safety improvements suggested in the RSA report. Bliss notes, “After the reports are complete, the affected communities may work with their designated RPC to identify funding sources for safety improvements.”

Mo-Kan, NWMORCOG, and Green Hills will also work with MoDOT officials to determine how the DOT might implement improvements. High dollar improvements may also be addressed through the RPCs’ annual transportation needs prioritization process, which influences the Statewide Transportation Improvement Process (STIP).

Mo-Kan, NWMORCOG, and Green Hills will coordinate three RSAs per year, with one being conducted in each RPC region. Together, the three RPCs make up the 20-county area of the Northwest MoDOT District.

More on FHWA’s P2P Program

As a state, local or tribal road owner considers the use of RSAs, technical or procedural questions often arise.  In order to provide assistance, FHWA’s Office of Safety established a peer-to-peer (P2P) program.  RSA experts volunteer their time to serve as Peers and provide guidance to agencies requesting assistance.  Assistance depends on the agency’s needs and can be in the form of phone calls, email exchanges, general instruction or on-site support during an agency’s first RSA.

The RSA P2P is available to public agencies at no charge and offers a variety of benefits. Including:

  • Free and convenient access to professionals experienced in RSAs
  • Increased understanding of the RSA process
  • On-site assistance to help ensure successful completion of your first RSA
  • Guidance on available funding options for performing RSAs and RSA recommendations
  • Guidance on RSA Team composition and information that should be collected in advance of the RSA

In addition to RSAs, FHWA has other P2P Programs available for agencies that are looking for assistance in areas such as roundabouts and local and rural roads safety.  Agencies can request peer assistance by calling the P2P help line at 866.727.3492 or sending an email to safetyp2p@dot.gov.  For complete information about all of the Highway Safety Peer-to-Peer Programs, or to submit a request online, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/p2p/