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Phoenix approves $10 million annual plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2050

Phoenix has a plan to reduce deadly crashes 25% by 2027 and 60% by 2035 to reach zero fatalities by 2050.

On Wednesday, the City Council  unanimously approved the Vision Zero Road Safety Action Plan, which includes $10 million in annual funding and a three-tiered task force system to include 11 members of the community appointed by the mayor and council members.

“We’re going to be working with them on how we’re implementing, the projects we’re implementing and then using the performance metrics to be able to see whether the investments we made had the intended benefit of reducing or eliminating serious injuries or fatalities,” said Kini Knudson, Phoenix street transportation director. "They can hold us accountable, they can make recommendations and advice as we go through this, 'Hey, we need to focus on this strategy or we think we need to spend more resources on this area.'"

Knudson said evaluation and engineering will be the first focus with an emphasis on the most dangerous intersections. 

"It might be a visibility issue with vegetation that just — need to take care of that, it could be as simple as that or it could be much more complex and that’s the idea of being able to use the data behind there to see what’s actually happening at the location and then figure out what’s the right countermeasure to be able to address that and make it safer,” he said.

The plan includes a map labeled “High Injury Network” that shows corridors where the most people have been killed or seriously hurt in vehicle crashes. (A list of projects targeted in the first five years starts on page 70 of the plan.)

In 2021, 231 people died on Phoenix streets, the most ever in a year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consistently ranks Phoenix in the top three cities for overall traffic fatalities, most recently behind only Houston and Los Angeles.

The plan lists 41 strategies focused on evaluating data, engineering, enforcement, education, and equity with first-year action lists and performance measures to ensure fatalities and serious injuries are going down. 

Although the publicly available report on Wednesday referenced 42 strategies in the plan, the actual number was 41. Red light photo enforcement was removed before the council meeting and vote. A spokesperson for the street transportation department told KJZZ News the city is currently studying the potential effectiveness of changes to signal timing, and “given the emphasis of the plan on engineering solutions, staff removed automated enforcement as a recommended strategy within the plan.”

When creating the plan, Phoenix followed the Federal Highway Administration Safe Systems Approach, which takes a “human-centric approach of intelligent transportation system design, proactively identifying and addressing risks, and creating redundancies in safety measures.” The thinking is people will make mistakes and crashes will happen but they should not result in deaths and serious injuries.  

Phoenix will use the plan to apply for federal grants available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

In a press release, Mayor Kate Gallego said the plan “... places the city in a much better position to access federal dollars that will amplify our investment, making it possible to bring new safety infrastructure to even more of our neighborhoods.”

In February, Phoenix adopted a roadway strategy known as Vision Zero with the expectation it would better position the city to access federal funds.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.