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'This is a game changer for us': Mother who lost her son weighs in as $21M heads to Louisville to improve road safety

Janet Heston is hopeful the grant will keep others from experiencing the pain she’s felt for two years now. Her son, Matthew, was killed in 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — City and state leaders are celebrating a grant they say will save lives on Louisville's roads.

The federal government has shelled out $21 million to improve 10 roads in the city known for traffic collisions and pedestrian fatalities.

Mayor Craig Greenberg announced the grant Wednesday afternoon. He said more than 900 people have died on the city's roadways since 2014.

“This is a game changer for us,” he said. “It will save lives and prevent serious injuries, and that's one of the best investments we can make as a city.”

Janet Heston is hopeful the grant will keep others from experiencing the pain she’s felt for two years now. Her son, Matthew, was killed in 2020 while crossing New Cut Road, right in front of Iroquois Park. 

Heston says a car hit him and the driver kept going. She says another person, who didn't see him, then hit him a second time.

"His body was unrecognizable,” she said. “They had to fingerprint him.”

This tragedy is one of the many reasons city officials want to improve Louisville's roads.

The money comes from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021, which will give Kentucky billions of dollars over five years to improve the state's roads, bridges, railroads, riverports, airports and broadband.

"Kentucky has seen a rise in roadway fatalities over the past couple of years, creating a worrying trend," Senator Mitch McConnell said.

Reimagining Ninth Street and revitalizing Broadway are two major Louisville road projects already being funded with help from the federal government.

The federal funding will be matched with nearly $4 million in local funds and approximately $1.5 million in state funding, for a total of nearly $27 million, according to Greenberg's office.

The Rightsizing Louisville For Safe Streets project looks to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries and implements elements of the Vision Zero Louisville program.

These streets will benefit from the project:

  • Wilson Avenue
  • West Oak Street
  • East Oak Street
  • Berry Boulevard (US 60A)
  • Crums Lane (KY 2049)
  • River Road
  • Zorn Avenue
  • South 22nd Street (US 31W)
  • Southern Parkway
  • Louis Coleman Jr. Dr.

“When you're going about your daily life and going where you need to go, you should be guaranteed that you're going to arrive there safely," Metro Transportation Planning Supervisor Amanda Deatherage said. 

She said while New Cut Road wasn't included in this round of funding due to federal guidelines, they're still working to improve every unsafe road.

Design work on these projects will begin this summer. Construction is scheduled to take place in 2024 and continue through 2027.

What is "rightsizing"?

"Rightsizing," formerly known as road reconfiguration or road diets, reduces vehicle speeds so, if a crash occurs, it's less likely to result in fatal or serious injury.

According to the mayor's office, these improvements "reduce dangerous speed, reduce the number of travel lanes pedestrians must cross, create traffic calming improvements and reallocate space for refuge islands, bicycle lanes, on-street parking and transit stops."

Officials say the concept can reduce crashes between 19% and 47%.

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