On a 45-mile stretch of Indiana State Road 3 (SR 3) between I-70 and I-74, an increasing volume of semi-trailers and commercial vehicles shares the two-lane undivided highway with motorists, farm vehicles, and Amish buggies. The hazardous mix contributed to 66 collision-related fatalities in Rush, Henry, and Decatur Counties between 2017 and 2021.
At the heart of this stretch is the city of Rushville, a community with a growing industrial base. With Indianapolis to the west, Dayton to the east, and Cincinnati to the southeast, the city sees regular commercial and freight truck traffic from nearby automotive companies like Honda and INTAT Precision, Inc. In addition to safety concerns, the large-vehicle traffic contributes to wear and tear on downtown infrastructure.
In May 2023, Indiana Resilience Funding Hub (IRFH) staff presented at the Administrative Resources Association’s (Ara’s) annual meeting in Columbus, Ind. A non-profit governmental association that serves member cities Rushville, Greenburg, and New Castle, ARa helps Indiana local governments pursue community and economic development projects. At the meeting, the IRFH team highlighted new federal funding opportunities available to Indiana communities through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, including funding related to transportation safety.
One of the grant opportunities highlighted was Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A), a US Department of Transportation program to improve the safety of roads and streets. The program distributes $1 billion a year to communities across the country to fund planning, infrastructure, and other initiatives that prevent death and serious injury on roadways.
Through discussions with city staff and the mayors of New Castle and Greensburg, Rushville Mayor Mike Pavey identified SS4A as an opportunity of interest for the tri-county area. In a meeting with IRFH staff, Pavey articulated the challenges faced by Rushville and adjoining communities and the desire to be “visionary versus reactive” in updating the SR 3 transportation plan.
To create the grant proposal, IRFH staff gathered data to support the city’s challenges and articulated its goals in a project narrative, working with the three mayors and ARa to finalize the project’s budget and submit in advance of the July 2023 deadline.
Support and resources
IRFH staff provided support for the SS4A grant proposal at every step of the process—from identifying the grant, to gathering data, to filling out forms and writing proposal narratives.
IRFH staff used the Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to gather equity data for the region. They also collected transportation and fatality statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, census tract data from the 2020 US Census, and mapping data and images from ArcGIS.
In addition, Accelerate Rural Indiana, the regional development authority for southeastern Indiana, and the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership, a nine-county economic development organization that includes Rush and Henry counties, provided input on the grant.
In October 2023, Rushville received word of its successful grant proposal. The $787,600 award will fund efforts to create an action plan along SR 3 that addresses surrounding safety and infrastructure concerns, with a goal of reducing the rate of serious and fatal accidents. The grant will allow the city to hire a full-time employee to coordinate and manage the project and engage community stakeholders in the planning process.
Once complete, the action plan will help inform city and county leaders on what steps will best improve safety conditions—whether it be a new roadway for commercial traffic, changes to traffic flow on SR 3, or a combination of strategies. The plan will also position grant stakeholders to apply for additional SS4A funds to implement strategies identified by the action plan.
“Thanks to IRFH, it was easy,” Kyle Gardner, Rushville’s special projects director, said about the grant application process. “We got to say that this was a project we think we want and would like to go after. After that it was very simple; there’s been no stress from our side.”
About the Environmental Resilience Institute
Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute brings together a broad coalition of government, business, nonprofit, and community leaders to help Indiana and the Midwest better prepare for the challenges of environmental change. By integrating research, education, and community, ERI is working to create a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future. Learn more at eri.iu.edu.