TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) – Getting around Talladega’s downtown square is mostly not a problem, as auditory and tactile enhancements make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In fact, for Rod Skene, it’s a breeze to navigate.

“You can get very comfortable traveling downtown and new sidewalks makes it that much easier,” Skene said.

Skene can only see light — he is unable to see objects — so he uses a cane to travel the sidewalks of Talladega. He works at E.H. Gentry and said the walk to downtown from there can be tough to route.

“The walk to get here can be a little treacherous,” Skene said. “There’s some low-lying areas, some really narrow sidewalks that are broken up. It just depends on what part of town you’re walking in on.”

Through a new grant, Talladega is exploring improvements to make its streets and sidewalks safer. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that traffic fatalities reached a 16-year high in 2021. Preliminary data suggests 2022 was not far behind.

Talladega City Manager Seddrick Hill said the city secured $280,000 to study the area and determine what improvements can be made to make it safer, especially for the deaf and blind.

“The institutes have been here since the 1800s, and the city has been here, but we’ve never catered to each other so it’s really drawing us together, working together and really making it a safer place,” Hill said.

That will one day make Skene’s walk from work at E.H. Gentry to downtown much safer.

“I know the city has a vested interest in the community, and it’s wonderful that there are possible grants to make additional improvements for pedestrian travel,” Skene said.

Hill said the city will also be looking to possibly add medians in the center of the roads around the square there to slow down traffic. Once the study is done, they’ll be able to start construction to create safer travel for everyone.

Talladega is one of eight communities in Alabama to receive funding from the new Safe Streets and Roads for All. It is part of a historic $800 million in grant money U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has allotted to prevent deaths and serious injuries on sidewalks nationwide.