Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program: Unique Opportunities for Local Governments & Technology Company Partners

The US Department of Transportation’s $5 billion Safe Street and Roads for All (“SS4A”) is a new grant program designed to support the development and implementation of Roadway Safety Actions Plans. The SS4A program centers on the development of Action Plans based on input gathered via robust and proactive stakeholder engagement and extensive data collection. SS4A funding aims to support projects and strategies that have been prioritized by residents of communities historically unde4rserved and where there exists a disproportionately high level of road safety fatalities and injuries.

Compelling SS4A applications will include effective stakeholder engagement and will propose innovative, data-driven strategies. For this reason, there are unique collaboration opportunities for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), local governments and technology companies. Technology companies with experience enabling and supporting projects designed to advance “Vision Zero” goals will be especially valued partners.

About the SS4A Grant Program

Section 24112 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also called the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law”) authorized and appropriated $5 billion to be awarded by the Department of Transportation for the SS4A grant program. On May 16, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity(NOFO) for the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Discretionary Grant Opportunity. Grant proposals for the up-to $1 billion in funding available in FY2022 are due by 5:00 PM EDT on Thursday, September 15, 2022. Organizations eligible to apply for SS4A grant funding include: (1) a metropolitan planning organization (MPO); (2) a political subdivision of a State or territory; (3) a federally recognized Tribal government; and (4) a multijurisdictional group of entities.

Under the NOFO issued on May 16, 2022, eligible grant applicants can apply for either a Roadway Safety Action Plan (RSAP) grant or — if an eligible entity already has an Action Plan with the required elements (Pages 13–15 of the NOFO include a Self-Certification Eligibility Worksheet that applicants can use to evaluate the applicability of an existing plan) — an Implementation Grant.

Two key clarifications:

Under the SS4A grant program, applicants can engage consultants to help with the development of their RSAP and can apply for reimbursement of those consulting expenses up to 80%

Once an applicant has an approved RSAP, they can apply for implementation funds but, if they apply for consulting reimbursement, they cannot apply for implementation funds in the same year as their application for the reimbursement.

Action Plan grants will range from $200,000 to $5,000,000 depending on the type of eligible applicant. Implementation grants will range from $5,000,000 to $50,000,000 depending on the applicant type. Via Implementation grants, SS4A funding will support an array of strategies and projects to address safety problems.

To meet the requirements of SS4A, Action Plans must reflect robust engagement with the public and relevant stakeholders, including the private sector and community groups. DoT directs applicants that proposed project and strategies should support the goals for historically underserved communities and be identified using data (including use of population characteristics) and input from appropriate partners. Action plans should include initial equity impact assessments. According to the NOFO, DoT aims to fund applications that target at least 40 percent of benefits towards low-income and underserved communities. The NOFO also highlights that DoT seeks to award funding to rural applications that address disproportionately high fatality rates and encourages applicants to consider climate change and sustainability.

Unique Opportunities for Collaboration between MPOs, Local Governments and Technology Companies

Calls for collaboration and effective stakeholder engagement are found throughout the SS4A NOFO. For technology companies, SS4A establishes new opportunities to co-create strategies and projects with MPOs, local governments and other community stakeholders. Four areas highlight the opportunities for technology company partners to local communities.

Public Private Partnerships. The NOFO anticipates that applicants will seek to use innovative technologies and strategies to reduce deaths and serious injuries and address safety concerns. The NOFO calls on applicants to engage with the private sector. Additionally, the DoT directs applicants seeking to incorporate advanced technology in their proposals to review the agency’s innovation principles. The principles articulate the Department’s commitment to public private partnerships that “share risk and foster purpose-driven innovation.”

Vision-Zero and Connected Community Innovations. DoT’s innovation principles support the incorporation of best practices and lessons learned from successful deployments. To this end, applicants and technology companies should collaborate to include in SS4A applications those projects, strategies, and technology tools (e.g., advanced sensors) that have most effectively advanced “Vision Zero” goals in communities across the country.

Crash Data. All recipients of SS4A funding must provide aggregated annual crash data on serious injuries and fatalities for the duration of the funded project. DoT expects the data will be granular and include crash characteristics and contributing factor information associated with the safety problems being addressed by the SS4A funded project or strategy. DoT’s requirements for crash data suggests that each SS4A proposal should include sensors, counter and other technological tools that will enable the applications to readily provide granular data in a manner that protects privacy.

Data Management. All funded SS4A projects will need to collect and manage data that is acquired and/or generated during the grant. So important are the data and reporting requirements of SS4A that the NOFO includes a reminder that all award recipients must consider, budget for, and implement appropriate data management. Data collection and data management offer another opportunity for applicants to collaborate with technology companies. Deployment of automated people counters and visual sensors can be deployed in communities (at key intersections, eg) and become a powerful tool for the project administrators at a local government or MPO.

In their applications of SS4A, applicants need to include in their proposal narrative that addresses each of the four following selection criteria:

Selection Criterion #1: Safety Impact.

Selection Criterion #2: Equity, Engagement, and Collaboration.

Selection Criterion #3: Effective Practices and Strategies.

Selection Criterion #4: Climate Change and Sustainability, and Economic Competitiveness.

Collaboration with technology companies, especially those with experience working closely with local government leaders to deploy and support smart and connected community projects, will help applicants address each of the selection criteria. For example, collaboration between MPOs, Local government and technology companies can help ensure that data-driven research is informing the projects and strategies seeking SS4A funding. Through public private partnerships, SS4A proposals will incorporate innovative and proven technologies and strategies designed to promote safety, equity and energy efficiency.

Technology companies with an interest in enabling and supporting SS4A projects should start their outreach to MPOs and local governments now. Technology companies should share with MPOs and local governments their previous experience supporting Vision Zero projects and the available devices and systems designed to collect and management road safety data. Indeed, effective projects will require robust connectivity solutions to support both data acquisition and backhaul for the acquired data.

For MPOs and local governments — since the DoT’s Action Plan grant requirements include a robust process for community engagement and input — a valuable best practice is to integrate your organization’s procurement process with the engagement process of the Action Plan. Ideally, your organization will be able procure quickly those technologies and services prioritized in the Action Plan once selected for Implementation grant funding from DoT.

About this Medium Site

On this Medium site, I explore an array of topics related to the transformative power of smart and connected communities. A central question for this observer of the so-called smart community movement: how will municipalities, real estate developers, universities and other leading organizations develop, deploy and support smart and connected community projects at scale?

I welcome feedback and comments from readers.

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Bill Maguire

A recovering policy wonk, Bill is passionate about the transformative power of advanced networks, open data, machine learning & the Internet of Things (IoT).