What will it take to make Utah’s roads safer? Here’s a start.

Federal funds for community traffic safety plans are on the way.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

Ivan Marrero pulled out his phone and read the most recent headlines.

“Bicyclist hit and killed by FrontRunner Train in Salt Lake City.”

“Six-year-old ejected and killed in rollover crash in Emery County.”

“Three killed in head-on crash in southern Utah.”

Marrero, with the Utah division of the Federal Highway Administration, rattled off the grim headlines to a roomful of people on Monday in Salt Lake City, hoping to make traveling in the state safer.

Local, state and federal leaders gathered at the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s offices to discuss transportation safety, but also to kick off plans to use $3.2 million awarded to the state through the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program. Through the Safe Streets and Grants program, $5 billion will go out to local and tribal governments across the nation over the next five years to “to address the rising fatalities on our roads and streets,” explained Robin Hutcheson, with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a former director of Salt Lake City’s transportation division.

The federal funding comes on the heels of other ambitious roadway safety improvements programs, including Salt Lake City’s commitment to Vision Zero, a pledge to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2035.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall noted that while there’s a historic amount of funding and planning going towards improving safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, fatalities have been on the rise. In 2022 there were more than 300 roadway fatalities in Utah. In Salt Lake City there were 26 traffic-related deaths, Mendenhall said.

“I think that this is a challenge for all of us who commute, who move around in any way, shape or form,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, who also spoke at the roundtable. “This is on the front burner for us.”

Left-hand turn protections, prohibitions on right-hand turns on some corners and giving pedestrians extra time before lights turn green for vehicles are a few changes that will come to parts of the city, Mendenhall told reporters. “Those are the kinds of creative and yet really tangible things that a city can do,” she said.

With more funds flowing to local governments across the state, more tangible projects will hopefully be coming soon — but first, the communities will have to plan them. And most of the $3.2 million awarded to six different communities in Utah from the federal government will go towards developing “comprehensive safety action plans.” The city of Green River, Cedar City, the Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the Mountainland Association of Governments, and the Five County Association of Governments (Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington) received grants.

“We want to see safer streets,” said Wilson, “and we also want to reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents in our communities.”

Correction, March. 28, 11:00 a.m. • An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote. The story has been updated to attribute the quote that begins “We want to see safer streets,” to Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.