The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it will send a "historic" $800 million in funds for 510 road safety projects across the country, including six in Utah, as the nation deals with an uptick in traffic-related deaths.

The money comes from the new Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program, which was included in an infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in 2021. The program sets aside $5 billion for traffic safety projects over the next five years.

The funds directed to Utah, which total about $3.2 million, will help six local and regional governments as they develop new comprehensive safety action plans, according to the federal department:

  • Mountainland Association of Governments: $1 million
  • Five County Association of Governments: $1 million
  • Wasatch Front Regional Council: $775,200
  • Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization: $320,000
  • City of Green River: $79,000
  • Cedar City Corporation: $52,000

The federal program was established as an estimated 42,915 people died in traffic crashes across the country in 2021, a 16-year-high, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in May 2022. Federal officials said Wednesday that preliminary data indicates a similarly high number for 2022, especially in pedestrian and bicycle-related deaths, though those numbers won't be released until later this year.

Utah's trends have essentially mirrored nationwide trends since the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, 2021 was the deadliest year on Utah roads over a 19-year span. The final number of deaths ended up being 332 people, according to an update last month.

Last year was nearly as deadly, as the Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Department of Transportation reported that 320 people died on Utah roads. Pedestrian and bicycle-related deaths rose in the state, as did the number of children killed in crashes.

This year is also off to a rocky start. Zero Fatalities, a program operated by the two departments, reports that there have already been 20 deaths on Utah roadways this year, down just two from the same point last year, according to data accessed Tuesday morning. The total number of crashes is up 22% from the same point in time last year.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he hopes that the program will begin to reduce the number of traffic crashes across the country, which he said isn't just taking lives but also impacting the economy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, issued a report last month that found the U.S.'s 2019 traffic crashes alone resulted in $340 billion in economic losses.

"Every, year crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action," Buttigieg said in a statement Wednesday. "We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives."