AUGUSTA — Hoping to reduce the number of pedestrians killed in Maine, state Sen. Nate Libby hopes to snag $5 million in transportation funds to help municipalities make safety improvements for those on foot.

“Improvements to pedestrian safety have been consistently cut out of strained municipal budgets,” Libby, D-Lewiston, said in a statement Friday.

A bill to create a matching fund program to improve pedestrian safety got approval this week from the Legislature’s Transportation Committee and heads next to the Senate.

Libby said when the measure reaches the Senate, he’ll ask for an amendment to include $5 million from the Highway Fund to begin the new program this year. The Highway Fund budget is $329 million.

The proposed program, which the Maine Department of Transportation has said is unnecessary, would spur funding for pedestrian safety improvements that include better lighting, better paint, speed bumps, signs and the reconstruction of dangerous intersections.

Libby said the plan would have the state cover 80 percent of the cost of approved projects, except for areas identified as dangerous intersections, which the state would pay for entirely.

It has been getting more deadly for pedestrians in Maine, with 2017 the worst year for fatalities since 1994.

But it’s one death in particular that spurred Libby’s passion for the issue.

A Lewiston Middle School student, Jayden Cho-Sargent, died in November 2016 after getting hit on Main Street on the way to school.

“My heart breaks for Jayden’s family every day. No more families should have to feel the pain they’re going through,” Libby said.

“I hope my colleagues in the House and the Senate will support this bill so our towns and cities can make the needed changes to protect Maine’s pedestrians and reverse the devastating upward trend of pedestrian deaths,” he said.

He said projects to bolster pedestrian safety across the state “have been consistently cut out of strained municipal budgets.”

“I don’t want one pedestrian life lost because a municipality couldn’t afford to make a needed improvement,” Libby said.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

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