Jul. 31—Jasper County Engineer Mike Frietsch showed a hint of frustration on July 26 when he tossed the 2019 local roads safety plan across the table and had to tell the board of supervisors that the document is "no longer any good now." It has been replaced, he said, as result of a new law from the federal government.
President Joe Biden's Infrastructure Law created the new Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program now requires the county to update its plan and create a "comprehensive safety action plan," Frietsch said. However, the Iowa Department of Transportation is going to pay for the update.
But the first step is getting the county involved in a joint application SS4A grant program, which has more than $1 billion of roadway safety funding available. To be considered an eligible applicant, the county must have an eligible action in place. Supervisors will have to vote on a new action plan in the future.
Despite Frietsch tossing away the old plan, he asserted it is not all bad. The good news is the plan is only about three years old, which means the county does not have to start from scratch. Frietsch said it also means Jasper County could be eligible for grant funds sooner than other counties that do not have a plan.
In the meantime, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to request the county be included in the statewide SS4A grant program.
"It essentially pays for this comprehensive action plan, which we've already got and the DOT is going to pay to update that, but there's also some thing that we could probably try to go for on the implementation grants side," Frietsch said, noting he is unsure how to process will look like or whether it will be competitive.
Regardless, Frietsch could see Jasper County being eligible for grant money for intersection improvements. There are also some infrastructure projects listed among the SS4A program that neither the county engineer nor supervisors were interested in, particularly roundabouts and narrowing streets.
To narrow down which intersections in Jasper County would be targeted for the grants, Frietsch said his office would have to collaborate with the sheriff's office and look at the crash data. Based upon the frequency and severity of crashes, the engineer can recommend the intersections most in need of improvements.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com