January 2010
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What are “Complete Streets?”

Car-centric city streets can be unwelcoming or even unsafe for people who are not driving. A “complete street” describes a vision of city travel that has facilities for bikes and pedestrians, is accessible to older people and children, to people who use wheelchairs, and which includes public transit.

The idea of complete streets is a relatively new way to look at urban planning but is gaining traction and has been incorporated in some state and federal goals. TMACOG’s long range transportation plan – the 2035 Plan – was adopted in 2007. The plan includes a list of policies including one that states that our region supports “a full range of integrated, interconnected modal choices” and specifically calls for the adoption of a regional complete streets policy. The short term transportation plan is the Transportation Improvement Program (the TIP) through which TMACOG administers federal transportation funds. Evaluation of projects for the TIP includes weighing many complete streets concepts including whether a street improvement project includes bicycle and pedestrian facilities or is on a designated bus route. Some federal funds are specifically reserved for “transportation enhancements” which can include bicycle facilities and streetscaping with benches and signage for walkers.

Drafts of the next federal surface transportation bill – expected in the next 12 to 18 months – include requirements that would strengthen complete streets elements. When the new bill is complete, TMACOG will work with partners and member jurisdictions to to develop a complete streets policy consistent with the new law. The scoring system for the TIP will also be reviewed to see if projects can be rewarded by including complete streets elements.

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