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Amid Concerning Data, WI Cities Carry Out Pedestrian Safety Projects

Pedestrian sign at a crosswalk
Arvind Balaraman/Arvind Balaraman - stock.adobe.c
Pedestrian sign at a crosswalk

A recently released report shows pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. remain at alarming levels. In Wisconsin, local communities are stepping up with grant money to establish more safety.

Last month, the Governors Highway Safety Association issued new data showing that more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. last year - a 40-year high.

At the same time, AARP is awarding its latest round of Community Challenge grants.

Cities like La Crosse and River Falls have been awarded funds to enhance safety and accessibility in high-traffic areas. AARP Wisconsin's Communications Director Jim Flaherty said these cities stood out for trying to make their communities more livable.

"Anything the communities can do to make pedestrian walkways safer is going to be highly valued by AARP," said Flaherty, "because it is helping folks 50 plus to navigate some of the roads in a more safe manner."

The report also notes a year-over-year increase in the pedestrian fatality rate for Wisconsin.

La Crosse is revitalizing a frequently used route by adding improvements such as a new crosswalk with art, light posts and other amenities.

River Falls is making improvements at a major intersection by adding high-visibility crosswalk markings and an auditory response system.

Flaherty said it's encouraging to see local solutions as residents all over the state deal with quality-of-life issues.

"Improving walkways and, and pedestrian and bike paths," said Flaherty, "that's all part of it. But so is affordable housing, all types of things so that from birth to death, you are able to live in a community without being a demographic that's left behind."

Other cities awarded grants are trying to address issues beyond pedestrian safety.

Milwaukee will use the funds to support community outreach for the "Growing MKE" initiative. Leaders say the effort will amend the city's comprehensive plan and update zoning to reduce barriers that interfere with development of housing for older adults.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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