AUGUSTA — A measure aimed at creating a state fund to help municipalities pay for pedestrian safety improvements is on hold.

The bill proposed by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, sought to create a fund in the Department of Transportation to bolster pedestrian safety through new lights, paint, signs, speed bumps and intersection fixes.

Lawmakers hit the pause button on the proposal after learning state transportation officials already have a program planned to fund projects aimed at making roads more safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Meghan Russo, the DOT’s legislative liaison, told legislators the department created a new roadway safety task force with the intention of reviewing roadway safety issues after a pedestrian death in Lewiston in November.

Libby said he’s disappointed the Committee on Transportation won’t act quickly “to get more money to municipalities in need of pedestrian safety improvements,” but is “glad to hear the department is taking a serious look at this issue and I look forward to seeing their recommendations for action.”

Three pedestrians died in Lewiston between November 2015 and the Nov. 3 death of 13-year-old Jayden Cho-Sargent, who was struck and killed on his way to school.

Libby, who has championed the issue of improving safety for walkers, said 19 pedestrians were killed in Maine in 2015, setting a record. Nearly as many died in 2016.

Libby said that cities and towns have a tough time paying for even basic road maintenance, let alone pedestrian safety measures that are often too great a stretch for local budgets.

His bill would have covered up to 80 percent of approved projects’ cost and in the case of especially dangerous intersections, the entire tab. It would also have required the state to compile regular reports on pedestrian crash data.

Russo said the legislation isn’t needed since the DOT “already has a program in place that accomplishes the goals” laid out in Libby’s proposal.

She said it relies on Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant Funds to fund a “bike-ped” program that helped pay for more than half of the 28 applications submitted by municipalities.

But the Bicycle Coalition of Maine said the department only has about $3 million a year available for “bike-ped” projects, not enough for “an era when construction costs are high and there are many requests for aid.”

Russo said the new task force is supposed to make recommendations the DOT can incorporate in future work and policy as well as perhaps evolving new legislation “that will improve all aspects of safety on our roadways.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with our partners on this task force to work towards safer roadways for all users,” she said.

The task force is expected to make recommendations later this year. Libby said lawmakers will likely take up the issue again early next year.

A flashing cross signal was installed Nov. 7 at the crosswalk on Park Street near the parking garage in Lewiston.


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