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Complete Streets Movement Gaining Momentum

The Complete Streets movement is growing in momentum, with more than 600 state and local Complete Streets policies around the country. This month, the National Complete Streets Coalition, of which ASLA is a Steering Committee member, highlighted some of the best policies in the country in its report, The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013. The report cites 10 different criteria used to rank the top policies, including policy vision, consideration for all users and modes, and project design. The report names Littleton, Massachusetts; Peru, Indiana; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as the top three communities with the best Complete Streets policies.

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However, state and local Complete Streets projects will work best when they are part of a comprehensive transportation network that ensures that all of our nation’s rights-of-way, including federal, state, and local projects, are safe and accessible for all users. ASLA and other advocates have been working with Congress to pass a national Complete Streets policy to accomplish this goal. Recently, Senators Mark Begich (AK) and Brian Schatz (HI) introduced the Safe Streets Act (S. 2004), which would establish a national Complete Streets policy. Specifically, the measure would require that the safety, interests, and convenience of all users be considered in the design and construction of federally funded transportation projects. This legislation would call on states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to establish a Complete Streets policy for federal transportation projects that is flexible enough to accommodate urban, rural, and suburban projects. Under the bill, the Secretary of Transportation would work with ASLA, along with other allied organizations, in developing this technical assistance and guidance.

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Safe Streets policies since I was the mayor of Anchorage, and I continue to support them here in the Senate,” said Senator Begich. “These policies lead to safer roads, less traffic congestion, higher property values, and healthier families. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this common sense bill to strengthen our transportation infrastructure and enhance the quality of life in our local communities.”

Complete Streets can help save lives. Over the past decade 47,000 pedestrians have died on U.S. highways. Two thirds of pedestrian deaths have occurred on federally funded roads. These roadways often lack Complete Street features such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle lanes, limiting access and creating a dangerous environment for travelers.

In additional, Complete Streets help contribute to the economic growth and stability of communities across America. Studies have shown that homes in communities with high Walk Scores have increased property value by $4,000 to $34,000. Communities with safe, walkable streets also attract businesses, both large and small, and the individuals they employ. For example, San Francisco’s Mission District invested in a new network of safe and visually appealing Complete Streets that slimmed traffic lanes to accommodate other modes of transportation. These projects resulted in increased pedestrian and bicycle activity, 40 percent sales increases for local businesses, and a 60 percent spike in local residents that shopped locally due to convenience and shortened travel time.

In June 2013, Representatives Doris Matsui (CA) and David Joyce (OH) introduced the House version of the Begich bill, H.R. 2468, which has continued to gain support from both parties, amassing nearly 20 cosponsors representing a diverse group of congressional districts. This broad support for the measure is a testament to how Complete Streets can benefit all types of communities with varying needs and backgrounds.

Landscape architects know firsthand the benefits of Complete Streets, as they are the design professionals who plan, design, and implement transportation projects that include sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic calming devices, and others. ASLA will continue its advocacy efforts to pass a national Complete Streets policy and encourages its members to take just two minutes to send a message or tweet to your legislators urging them to sponsor the Safe Streets Act.

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