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Heinrich Cosponsors Legislation to Improve Roadway Safety in New Mexico

WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), to introduce the Complete Streets Act, legislation to improve the safety and accessibility of transportation routes across the nation. 

“New Mexico’s rate of pedestrian-vehicle fatalities demands action,” said Heinrich. “The Complete Streets Act is an opportunity to not only make unprecedented investments in our state’s roadway safety, but pave the way for better, more accessible streets that can accommodate all forms of transportation. I’m proud to support this legislation to make roads safer and New Mexicans’ commutes easier.”

The Complete Streets Act would make roads safer and more accessible by ensuring that states direct a portion of their federal highway funding towards the creation of a Complete Streets Program. A “Complete Street” provides safe and accessible transportation options for children, seniors, and people with disabilities by prioritizing infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit users. 

Under the Complete Streets Act, eligible local and regional entities can use funds from their state’s Complete Streets Program for technical assistance and capital funding to build safe street projects such as sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and bus stops. The legislation would also phase in a requirement for states to incorporate Complete Streets elements into all new construction and reconstruction. 

You can read the full bill text HERE.

Heinrich's Longtime Engagement on Road Safety 

Last April, Heinrich joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in New Mexico to highlight infrastructure investments that the Biden-Harris Administration is delivering to our state to improve the safety of our roads, reduce crashes, and save lives.

Heinrich and Buttigieg visited a section of Coors Boulevard between Blake and Gun Club Road in Albuquerque’s South Valley. In recent years, far too many New Mexicans have lost loved ones in deadly vehicle-pedestrian collisions along this very stretch of road, which is near a number of schools, residential neighborhoods, and a shopping center. 

Heinrich and Buttigieg announced during their visit that through its Safe Streets and Roads for All initiative, and with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $6.3 million to Bernalillo County to improve this busy stretch of Coors to add wider pedestrian paths and protected bike lanes and create safer traffic patterns.

During their visit, Heinrich and Buttigieg also received a briefing from Dr. Nicholas Ferenchak, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, who is leading a new Center for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety that was made possible thanks to a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In 2022, Heinrich welcomed a $11.4 million federal investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program to construct a mile long section of a multi-use urban trail going north to south and through the heart of Downtown Albuquerque. This will be part of the City’s larger Albuquerque Rail Trail project.

New Mexico Continues to Lead the Nation in Pedestrian Fatality Rate:

In November, the Governors Highway Safety Association released its annual Spotlight report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2022 Preliminary Data, which offered a comprehensive look at state and national trends in pedestrian deaths in 2022. 

The report found that drivers struck and killed at least 7,508 people walking in 2022 – the highest number since 1981, with an average of 20 deaths every day. Between 2020 and 2021, pedestrian deaths have increased 16%, while other traffic fatalities increased 10%. Since 2010, pedestrian deaths have gone up an alarming 77%, compared to a 25% increase in all other traffic fatalities. 

According to the report, New Mexico once again had the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities in the entire nation with an estimated 4.4 pedestrians deaths per every 100,000 people in the state. An estimated 93 New Mexicans were killed in pedestrian-vehicle collisions in 2022. New Mexico has ranked #1 in the rate of pedestrian fatalities in 5 of the past 6 years.

Support for Complete Streets Act:

The legislation is endorsed by the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, BikeABQ, Velo Cruces, Vulnerable Road Users NM (VRUnm), the National Complete Streets Coalition, Transportation for America, the LivableStreets Alliance, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the League of American Bicyclists.

“More and more people are opting to travel by means other than motorized vehicles and their safety is just as important as passengers in cars. Making funding available to state and local authorities would be a large step forward to implementing complete streets in our communities and reducing the ever increasing rates of injury and death for pedestrians, cyclists and users of other alternative modes of transportation caused by inadequate surface facilities,” said Eugenia Conway, a Cyclist and Cycling Advocate with Velo Cruces.

“New Mexicans want their streets to provide safe access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. This bill would address the safety of these vulnerable road users, as well as climate issues, by funding much-needed improvements such as bike lanes, wide sidewalks, enhanced crosswalks, and traffic calming measures,” said Steve Pilon, MD, BikeABQ Board Member and Treasurer.

“With pedestrian fatalities in New Mexico ranked worst in the US for 7 of the last 10 years, it's obvious that proactive solutions must be aggressively pursued if lives are to be saved. Our organization is gratified to know that Senator Heinrich is taking a stand in support of the Complete Streets Act,” said Barbara Toth, founder and Executive Director of Vulnerable Road Users NM (VRUnm). "Our ‘car-centric’ roadways must be reconfigured to support those who are outside the protection of a motor vehicle. Persons who walk and run, and those who get around by bicycle or wheelchair (along with a great many other vulnerable road users) are desperately in need of changes in infrastructure that will actually provide them safe access. Measures such as reevaluating speed limits and ensuring that bike lanes and crosswalks are well constructed and clearly marked are imperative. Those who call New Mexico home deserve to live, work, and play without fear for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.”

“Everyone deserves to have safe transportation options and the Complete Streets Act will work to ensure that communities are able to provide such opportunities. This is especially important for New Mexicans as we consistently have some of the highest rates of traffic fatalities in the United States and the highest fatality rate for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Assistant Professor Nick Ferenchak, PhD, PE, Director of the USDOT Center for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety at the University of New Mexico. “It doesn't hurt that providing safe, comfortable, and convenient transportation options for all will also promote sustainability, since the auto-dominated transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

“Bike Santa Fe is in strong support of the Complete Streets Act, which would create a grant program for local governments to access to fund complete streets projects,” said Jennifer Webber, President of Bike Santa Fe. “Streets should be accessible and safe for everyone – pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users, and motorists. With thoughtful planning, design, and construction, our streets can serve all community members.”