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GETTING THERE: VDOT prepares for fuel spike impact

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Pedestrian deaths spiked in 2020

Pedestrian deaths spiked in 2020 in much of the U.S., but Virginia is among states that saw a decline.

Rising fuel prices and inflation aren’t just hitting the average person. The state is adjusting to the increased costs of doing the business of building and maintaining Virginia’s roads.

Last week, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board heard a presentation about an adjustment to the state’s fiscal 2023–28 six-year improvement plan, setting aside a reserve fund of $129 million should forecast increases in maintenance costs the rest of the year come to fruition.

The reserve fund aims to cover the impacts of high gas prices and inflation, Laura Farmer, Virginia Department of Transportation chief financial officer, told the board.

She said the increased costs are expected to come during the paving season, which has kicked into gear.

The breakdown of the reserve fund sets aside $81 million for fuel and asphalt, $24 million for fuel and $24.3 million for localities.

Farmer told the board the move is a one-year adjustment at this point, and any future adjustments to the six-year plan will depend on inflation and fuel prices.

Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III said he hopes the move is needed just this year and not annually during the six-year plan.

If that happens, then “we’re at $800 million that just evaporated into inflation. So, it’s a real problem.”

Walking dead?

A pedestrian died in a car crash nearly every hour in 2021, which turned out to be the deadliest in 40 years for walkers along and on U.S. roads, according to a recently released estimate.

The Governors Highway Safety Association released its updated estimate last week for the total of pedestrians who died after being struck by a vehicle last year on U.S. roads. The total reached 7,485, “an average of 20 every day.”

The association’s estimate of pedestrian deaths last year is up by 774 in 2020.

Things weren’t any better on Virginia roads last year, with 125 pedestrians died after being struck by a vehicle, up from 114 in 2020.

Another troubling statistic from the report has National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2020 data showing the percentage of speed-related pedestrian crashes involving children 15 and younger “more than doubled” between 2018 and 2020.

“This is heartbreaking and unacceptable. The pandemic has caused so much death and damage, it’s frustrating to see even more lives needlessly taken due to dangerous driving,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in the news release. “We must address the root causes of the pedestrian safety crisis—speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, inadequate infrastructure, and roads designed for vehicle speed instead of safety—to reverse this trend and ensure people can walk safely.”

The report includes some interesting findings.

While pedestrian deaths have risen by 54% over the past decade, all other traffic deaths have increased by 13%.

Speed plays a major role in pedestrian incidents, with the potential for a fatality increasing from 10% at 23 mph to 90% at 58 mph.

Most deadly pedestrian crashes happen at night, with 76% of such incidents in 2020 happening after sunset, according to data that included a light element.

In 2020, 67% of deadly pedestrian crashes happened in areas with no sidewalks, up from 62% the previous four years.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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