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Congress Moves Closer to Adopting a Complete Streets Policy

In an important step toward adopting a national Complete Streets policy, on December 14, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously adopted an amendment authored by Alaska Senator Mark Begich to establish federal standards for the safe accommodation of all road users. 

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Specifically, the Begich Amendment would call on the Secretary of Transportation to “establish standards to ensure that the design of federal surface transportation projects provides for the safe and adequate accommodation, in all phases of project planning, development, and operation, of users of the transportation network, including motorized and nonmotorized users.” Under the amendment, states with their own Complete Streets policies would get a waiver from the federal policy.

Upon learning of the Begich Amendment, ASLA and other Complete Streets Coalition members swung into action to urge Senate Commerce Committee members to support the amendment. In a letter to Senate offices, ASLA Executive Vice President Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, urged support for the Begich Complete Streets Amendment because “it will not only provide safe accommodations for all transportation users, it will also create critical job opportunities for landscape architects and other design and construction professionals throughout the supply chain.”

The Begich Amendment was adopted as part of S. 1950, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, which is the Senate Commerce Committee’s portion of the reauthorization of the surface transportation law that addresses freight and safety issues. While the Begich Amendment was unanimously accepted by the entire committee, the overall bill passed on a party line vote of 13–11. Now, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will address transit issues as part of its jurisdiction over the surface transportation law.

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