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Louisville’s High Injury Network could help prioritize improving safety on certain roads

A yellow traffic sign with the silhouette of a person, with signs below that read "BLIND PEDESTRIAN AHEAD," in front of an empty multi-lane road.
Jacob Munoz
Five miles of Westport Road are included in Louisville's new High Injury Network map, which identifies the most dangerous roadways in the city.

Louisville and state officials are now using the city’s first High Injury Network map. The guiding document uses crash data to determine which surface roads are most in need of safety changes.

A majority of dangerous non-highway traffic incidents are concentrated on a small portion of Louisville roads, a recent analysis showed.

Louisville Metro Government’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to strengthen traffic safety, released its first High Injury Network map in January. The tool provides a priority list of 53 corridors that officials can consider for safety improvements.

The network is based on an analysis of traffic crashes from 2018-22, using Kentucky State Police data. It takes a federal method of assigning “crash costs” to different types of collisions — weighted toward fatalities and suspected serious injuries — and gives an average score to local roadways.

Roads in the network account for just 5% total non-interstate miles, but more than half of all fatal and suspected serious injury crashes on those roads.

Claire Yates, Vision Zero’s program manager, said the map is already informing the city’s work on a new federal grant application for roadway safety funds, which has not been finalized but could include reworking Hill Street. One mile of the street along three West End neighborhoods — Algonquin, Park Hill and Park Duvalle — is part of the network.

Yates added the map includes roads that city and state officials have been publicly eyeing for improvements, such as Taylor Boulevard/New Cut Road and the Preston corridor.

“There's quite a bit of project overlap between the High Injury Network and what sort of projects are ongoing right now,” Yates said.

She also said city planners can make safety changes for locations that aren’t highlighted on the map. For example, the network includes parts of Second Street, but not the road on the Clark Memorial Bridge, which on Friday had a serious crash that sent multiple people to the hospital.

Yates said any projects that look at Second Street could include stretching work onto the bridge.

“You're going to have to consider the way traffic flows and what those turning movements are, and then also what makes sense to bundle as a project,” she said.

Most of the high-risk roads identified on the map are state-owned, meaning the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would need to sign off on improvement projects.

KYTC traffic safety branch manager Michael Vaughn said his agency is currently reviewing what studies have already been done on the network’s roadways, and if new or updated research is needed.

“You've got to understand, well, what are possible solutions? And what are the pros and cons and the costs of those solutions? And then that helps us prioritize where to place our limited funding,” he said.

The cabinet gets more than $50 million per year from the federal government’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, which Vaughn said amounts to less than 10% of the total federal funding the state gets for roadways.

Both the agency and the city in recent years have adopted policies and guidance that aim to promote roadway accessibility for all types of travelers, based on a federally-backed “Complete Streets” approach to planning.

Matt Bullock is the cabinet’s chief district engineer for District 5, which includes Louisville. He said those policies help inform the agency’s approach to safety improvements.

“We're all doing the same type of thing, [which] is, you're looking for safety for all users,” he said. “And that's not just vehicles, that's not just trucks… It's not just cyclists, it's not just motorcycle riders, it's everybody.”

Crash fatalities in Louisville have risen over the past five years, according to Kentucky State Police data. More than 900 people died in Louisville from surface road crashes from 2016-23, and nearly 4,200 others were suspected to have been seriously injured in collisions.

Vision Zero provides financial support to Louisville Public Media.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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