Use the Stimulus Bill to Complete Our Nation’s Streets

PortlandChicane.jpgOne of the most encouraging moments in last week’s PBS NOW documentary about Charlotte, NC came when Mayor Pat McCrory pointed out the importance of "complete streets" to the success of the city’s new light rail system. "Transit alone doesn’t transform neighborhoods," said McCrory. "The key is how you connect those neighborhoods to the train stations, with well-planned sidewalks that create a walkable community."

True enough. And that’s just part of why it’s so important that the street construction paid for by the stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, to call it by its formal name) be designed with the complete streets model in mind.

The National Complete Streets Coalition has put together some helpful resources for communities interested in identifying opportunities for building complete streets with ARRA funding:

Projects that help complete the street network for safe travel by all modes should get priority
in the spending authorized under ARRA. Using stimulus funds to help cities and towns rebuild their roadways as complete streets would improve safety while reducing traffic, air pollution, energy use, and carbon emissions. …Most of the ARRA funds commonly referred to as money for ‘roads and bridges’ are being distributed through the Surface Transportation Program, which provides great flexibility to state Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations for use on a variety of projects. States and MPOs should use the additional STP funds from ARRA to make a
down payment on bringing their transportation systems to a good state of repair and investing in a system for the 21st Century. 

Quality road projects that help create complete streets are part of both repair and building for the future.  STP funds can also be used for transit capital improvements that would ensure safe and convenient access to bus stops and train stations. In addition, $825 million of the ARRA funds are set aside for the Transportation Enhancements program, which is often used for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In addition to the transportation funds
in the bill, Community Development Block Grant Funds ($1 billion) and Energy Efficiency Block Grant Funds ($2.8 billion) include bicycle and pedestrian improvements as eligible uses.

As the Complete Streets Coalition says, "incomplete streets are dangerous and create barriers for people to get to jobs, school, the doctor, and fully participate in civic life." Every day, we see tragic examples of how true that is. State and city governments should spend the stimulus money on infrastructure that serves all citizens safely and efficiently.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

So You Have a Complete Streets Policy. Now What?

|
A growing number of communities across the country now have complete streets policies — somewhere in the neighborhood of 280, if you want to get specific. But now comes the hard part: implementing those policies on real streets. Complete streets policies represent a complete 180 from the way transportation planning has been done in 99 […]

Today’s Headlines

|
White House Mulls Emergency Stimulus–Or Not? (Politico, Reuters) Study: Transit Creates More Jobs than Highways (Common Dreams, HuffPo) NYT Tells Readers to Check Their Neighborhoods’ Transportation Costs with Abogo Another Gulf Oil Platform Explodes (The Hill, WSJ) New Jersey Transportation Fund Near Empty (Bloomberg) Granholm Signs Michigan’s Complete Streets Legislation (AnnArbor.com) Palo Alto Council Denounces High-Speed Rail Plan […]

Envisioning an Upper West Side Streets Renaissance

|
If you’re thinking about coming to tonight’s Upper West Side workshop with Jan Gehl but you are having trouble picturing what a "Streets Renaissance" might look like, the video above was made for you. It consists of a series of photo simulations produced by New York City Streets Renaissance Creative Director Carly Clark. Whipped into […]

Complete Streets Could Help America Lose Weight, Says CDC

|
When people who aren’t transportation geeks ask me why transportation policy is a topic worthy of more attention on the national stage, I often start by talking about the public health implications. Not only are tens of thousands of Americans killed and injured in car crashes every year, not only are countless thousands of others […]

A Bill to Make American Streets Safer Surfaces in the Senate

|
Has the moment finally arrived for a national complete streets law? A bill creating incentives for transportation agencies to design safe streets for everyone — pedestrians and cyclists in addition to motorists — is back on the floor of Congress this week. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are sponsoring the Safe Streets Act […]