Embodying The Mission: Outreach

Making a community impact

By Jeremy Henderson

Pedestrian deaths are a growing problem in Alabama. Rod Turochy, Associate Director for Outreach for the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute, says more accessible sidewalks in 10 Black Belt communities could be part of the solution.

Thanks to a $1.3 million grant in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s RAISE (Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) program, Auburn’s “Step Up Alabama” initiative will provide for community engagement, planning and design of pedestrian facility improvement projects in Demopolis, Eufaula, Eutaw, Enterprise, Georgiana, Greenville, Opp, Selma, Troy and Tuskegee.

“2021 saw the most pedestrian fatalities in Alabama in five years,” said Turochy, the James Madison Hunnicutt Professor in traffic engineering. “But even across the country, pedestrians continue to bear a disproportionate share of pain and suffering in traffic incidents. Drivers are growing more distracted, and sales of SUV and pickups are growing, which means the average vehicle is heavier and taller. Vehicles aren’t only hitting people in the knees and legs anymore, pedestrians are more often being struck in their torsos.”

Combining these new realities with pedestrian infrastructure that has remained mostly untouched for decades makes many of Alabama’s under-resourced areas especially prone to pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Since the data show that people of color and lower-income communities experience a disproportionate share of these incidents, improvements to pedestrian facilities should substantially improve safety in these areas.

“This project will support a more sustainable and equitable transportation system by improving pedestrian safety,” Turochy said. “We will make a difference in these communities.”