U.S. Capitol Building. Flickr.com/ Rambling Traveler

U.S. Capitol Building. Flickr.com/ Rambling Traveler

 

The long awaited Senate draft of the roads portion of the federal transportation authorization bill has been released. The bill makes some nods toward Complete Streets, but does not include a policy.

In its bill, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works also chose not to incorporate proposals in the proposed Safe and Complete Streets Act (S. 1056). While we are disappointed, we look forward to opportunities to improve it now that the bill is being debated in the Senate.

The draft of the proposed bill, released on Friday, reflects a common misconception that Complete Streets are special projects rather than an integrated, mainstream approach to transportation planning and design that results in safer streets and more efficient transportation investments. The draft bill references several specific Complete Streets-type road improvements, but only in a program intended mainly to fund bicycling and walking infrastructure called “Additional Activities”.

While on the surface such inclusion may seem to be a positive step, it implies that multi-modal road projects should be relegated into a small funding category, regrettably one that will be straining under the demand for bicycling and walking improvements. The Senate committee has heard our concerns and is already planning to remove most of these uses from the Additional Activities program.

We are encouraged that projects that create safe streets for all users are made eligible under MAP-21’s new core funding program, the Transportation Mobility Program, though not explicitly listed. We will be working to clarify that Congress sees such road projects as a central part of our transportation investments.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Senate to include language to ensure that future transportation projects address the needs of everyone who will be using the roadway.” said Barbara McCann, Executive Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “We hope that the final bill will include this basic measure to save money and lives – and put federal policy in a position to support the 27 states and more than 270 communities that have adopted these policies.”

The bill contains other noteworthy improvements. Bicycling and walking projects would be eligible under the core program previously reserved for “highways” maintains the ability to move (‘flex’) highway dollars into transit is maintained. Also, the Highway Safety Improvement Program section clearly defines ‘road users’ as including people who walk and bicycle and use public transportation, as well as people with disabilities and older adults. We thank the committee for working to identify small ways to fully integrate all users of the roadway in the complex arena of federal transportation law.

Coalition partners continue to analyze this 600-plus page bill for many elements that have an impact on progress toward Complete Streets. Please see America Bikes and Transportation for America for more details.

The National Complete Streets Coalition supports the hundreds of communities, regions, and states working to make walking, bicycling, and using transit integral elements of the transportation system by routinely incorporating the needs of all users in all transportation projects. The Coalition represents a broad variety of groups, including those that represent users of the transportation system and transportation professionals. For more information about Complete Streets and the National Complete Streets Coalition, visit www.completestreets.org.