Federal ‘Complete Streets’ Legislation Introduced


Philip Langdon

New Urban Network

Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat, and Steven LaTourette, a Republican from the northeast corner of Ohio, have introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011. This bill would put federal muscle behind the growing campaign for accommodating the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists.

The legislation “would require each state’s department of transportation and metropolitan planning organization to put in place a Complete Streets policy that ensures all Federally-funded transportation projects accommodate the safety and convenience of all users,” the Sacramento Press reported.

“I have seen firsthand the interest in Complete Streets on the local level, and a Federal Complete Streets standard will ensure a consistent approach for all of our transportation investments,” said Rep. Matsui.

“California was one of the first states to put a Complete Streets policy in place, and the Sacramento region’s Blueprint for Growth has been a model for other metropolitan areas,” the Sacramento periodical pointed out. “The Blueprint incorporates Complete Streets policies on the local level, and the Safe and Complete Streets Act would do so nationally.”

“Complete Streets policies are designed to ensure streets, intersections, and trails are designed to make them easier to use and maximize their safety,” Mike McKeever, executive director of Sacramento Area Council of Governments, said. “This legislation will encourage Americans to live more active and healthy lifestyles while providing more travel options and cutting down on traffic congestion.”

“LaTourette’s support for complete streets came from advocates flooding his office with complaints after he ridiculed bicycling as a mode of transportation and a jobs engine in a committee hearing last year,” Tanya Snyder wrote on DC.StreetsBlog. “Perhaps if he’d never made those disparaging remarks, he would never have discovered the groundswell of support for active transportation and wouldn’t be the champion of the complete street he is today.”

The new bill also calls on the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board to publish new accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities, StreetsBlog noted. “A similar bill was introduced in 2009 with stronger penalties, modeled on seat belt provisions, for non-compliance. Advocates got some pushback on that and let them go this time.”

Barbara McCann, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, acknowledged that the bill is not expected to be passed as a free-standing piece of legislation. But, she said, “It allows us to talk about what we want to see in the final [transportation] authorization bill.”

Since federal transportation authorization “has been stuck because of larger issues, the intent is to build support and work with the committees to get the language included in the draft authorization bills,” McCann explained.

A Complete Streets provision was included in Democratic Rep. James Oberstar’s transportation authorization bill in the last Congress, but the bill didn’t pass, and Oberstar lost his reelection bid. So Rep. John Mica, the current Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been writing a whole new bill, McCann said, adding, “A Complete Streets provision appears in all of the recently leaked unofficial versions of the [Obama] Administration’s bill.”

Twenty-three states and more than 200 regional and local jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets policies, New Urban Network recently reported in an article summarizing progress on those policies, based on information released by the Coalition. The Coalition’s report, Complete Streets Policy Analysis 2010: A Story of growing strength, is posted on the Coalition website.