Lander pursuing federal grant program for pedestrian safety enhancements; county hesitant

Lander city staff have identified a multi-million-dollar funding opportunity for roadway safety improvements through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program will provide a total of $1 billion in funding for projects aimed at “significantly reducing or eliminating roadway fatalities and serious injuries,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But there is a “catch,” assistant mayor RaJean Strube Fossen said.

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“It comes with the need for a resolution,” she told the Lander City Council during a meeting this week.

In order to apply for the grant program, Strube Fossen said the council has to approve one of two resolutions.

The first is related to a national program called the Vision Zero Network, which works to “eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all,” according to its website.

“That means that the council would say, by resolution, that they are trying to eliminate all traffic deaths by a certain date, or reduce traffic deaths by a certain date,” Strube Fossen said. “You’d have to put in your resolution that you’re trying to reduce deaths on our infrastructure.”

The second option is related to another national program called Complete Streets, which aims to “make our streets and infrastructure safe for all modes of transportation … including pedestrians, bicyclists, every age, and every ability of person,” Strube Fossen said.

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She voiced a preference for the Complete Streets resolution, which she said was easier to “evaluate” and develop “performance measures” for, and said she would bring a resolution to the council for their official consideration during an upcoming meeting.

County participation

Strube Fossen also spoke with Fremont County Commission members about the federal funding opportunity, but she said they were hesitant to adopt either of the resolutions necessary to access the grant program.

“That’s not to say they’re not going to participate with us,” she said, noting that the city developed its long-range transportation plan with cooperation from Fremont County, which also adopted Lander’s Safe Routes to Schools plan. “They’re ready to partner, (but) they’re not ready, as a commission, to jump into the (program). The answer that I got was, ‘Not never, but not now.’”

Councilmember Melinda Cox expressed “concern” about the county’s response, pointing specifically to Tweed Lane, where she said traffic deaths happen “far too often.”

“There are significant issues with that road, and it would be nice if the county (was) willing to have a resolution,” she said. “A resolution isn’t a forever type of a thing – we’re accessing some dollars.

“(I would) encourage constituents to reach out to our county commissioners.”

Councilmember Missy White agreed it is “prudent” for the city to take advantage of any grant program “that can stretch our locally raised dollars” – especially when it comes to pedestrian safety improvements.

“The charm and the magic of living in a small town is kids being safe and independent,” White said. “They can ride their bike to a friend’s house, go to the park.”

A lot of children traverse the intersection at Main Street and Baldwin Creek Road, for example, Councilmember Dan Hahn pointed out, suggesting that area be targeted for safety improvements.

For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.

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