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Feds grant city $23M for Howard Street, the site of 3 recent traffic deaths

Participants gather around a memorial bicycle on the corner of Howard Street and Sixth Street during the Ride of Silence on May 19, 2022 throughout the streets of San Francisco, California. | Christopher Victorio for The Standard

San Francisco’s Howard Street, a heavily trafficked three-lane artery in SoMa, is set to receive a boost of new funding for permanent safety improvements from the federal government on Wednesday.

In a press release, Mayor London Breed’s office announced $23 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) initiative to make upgrades to the corridor.

Between 4th and 11th streets, the city plans to remove one lane of car traffic and add a two-way protected bike lane, along with raised crosswalks and protected intersections to help prevent traffic collisions. Between 2014 and 2019, three people were killed along this particular corridor. Howard Street is listed on the city’s high injury map, a network of streets that record the highest rate of traffic injuries. 

Pushed forward in part by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the funding for the project will make permanent the temporary changes the city has already made to the street. 

“All through COVID we’ve been experimenting with street safety improvements using plastic and paint,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s director. “We’re grateful for Speaker Pelosi’s support to upgrade our successful pilots with concrete and trees.” 

The federal cash won’t cover the entire $49 million budget for the upgrades, and funding for the whole project has yet to be finalized, according to SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato. The project is currently in the preliminary engineering phase and is slated to start construction in 2024 or 2025 and be completed by 2027. 

In a text to The Standard, Kato said the project’s completion could depend on additional federal or local grants from programs like the RAISE initiative.

“SFMTA has no realistic means to deliver a project of this size without outside grant awards,” Kato wrote. “The RAISE grant is a critical step toward making the needed changes on Howard Street a reality.