Highway Safety Improvement Program Implementation Process

Project Details









Iowa Department of Transportation

Principal Investigator
Peter Savolainen
Co-Principal Investigator
Neal Hawkins

Director Research Administration, ISU

About the research

The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is a core Federal-aid program aimed at reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. This includes all state-owned and non-state-owned public roads. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) allocates HSIP funding based on strategies identified in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), with specific emphasis on reducing lane departure and intersection crashes. On both the primary and secondary road systems, HSIP-funded projects comprise a mixture of proactive and reactive safety treatments.

Consistent with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, HSIP funds are designated to be used for projects that are consistent with the state’s SHSP. Furthermore, the FAST Act requires that such projects improve a hazardous road location/feature or address a highway safety problem. In contrast to prior legislation, the FAST Act also limits the flexibility of HSIP funding to a specific list of project categories that are mostly infrastructure-based.

The HSIP also requires that states utilize a data-driven, strategic approach when allocating funds for specific projects. Continuing on this point, the Iowa HSIP 2015 Annual Report notes, “Iowa is interested in modifying how HSIP funds are sub-allocated within the state, and how projects are selected.” To this end, a multi-state peer review was held in early 2015 to evaluate Iowa’s current HSIP structure and present possible modifications. Based on this review, a goal was established to have a new structure in place for FY 2018 project selections that would provide a method for distribution of funds.

In support of this initiative, $600,000 of HSIP funds were utilized to develop Local Road Safety Plans (LRSPs) for 12 counties from across the state. There are 17 additional LRSPs currently under development and, ultimately, the long-term goal is to develop similar plans for all 99 counties. Another critical piece of this initiative, District Road Safety Plans (DSRPs) are currently under development and scheduled for completion in 2016. These plans will play a key role in the selection and programming of HSIP projects moving forward. In addition, a recent HSIP Scanning Tour was conducted, which highlighted best practices across seven states, providing important insights to guide Iowa’s HSIP.

Collectively, the results of the aforementioned efforts provide motivation for the development of processes that guide the allocation of HSIP funds by the Iowa DOT. A primary objective of this project is to develop an HSIP manual, which will detail a systematic process by which the Iowa DOT allocates and sub-allocates HSIP funds to projects on an annual basis. This guidebook will outline a framework and provide pertinent details governing the selection, implementation, and evaluation of HSIP projects. Development of the manual will include an assessment of the current evaluation process and how available data can be used to effectively target candidate locations and projects moving forward.

Following the first cycle of HSIP allocation, the Institute for Transportation (InTrans) will collaborate with the Iowa DOT to assess the effectiveness of the allocation process and guidance document. This will include input from the Iowa DOT and stakeholders, with emphasis on improving the clarity and understanding of the processes. This may also include the development of spreadsheets or other decision-support tools to assist the Iowa DOT in support of the annual allocation process.

At the conclusion of the project, InTrans will deliver a finalized version of the HSIP manual and any accompanying decision-support tools. The final manual will include pertinent details of the development process and clearly indicate how HSIP funds will be allocated over time. This will include details of the allocation/sub-allocation process, as well as details of how the HSIP projects will be evaluated over time.