Adopt a "Complete Streets" policy
States should integrate a "complete streets" approach into their transportation planning and funding decisions. These policies require agencies to balance the needs of all users in the planning, design, and construction of all transportation projects. This allows users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit riders, older people, children, and those with disabilities, to move safely along and across a network of complete streets. Good multi-modal facilities along major roads can reduce congestion by providing an alternative to short-distance car trips. The improvements in the community and the public safety benefits can be significant. One study showed that the addition of sidewalks, raised medians, and improved intersections reduced pedestrian injury and fatality risk by 28 percent. Other road improvements, like lane narrowing and installation of curb extensions, result in substantial crash reductions.
Complete streets have been a policy goal at the federal level since 2000, and several states, including California and Illinois, have passed laws requiring complete streets planning. A state can implement a complete streets policy administratively by changing rules to require that all new state roads or major rehabilitation projects include pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities, and encouraging their inclusion in maintenance and other activities. Guidelines to development of good complete streets policies can be found at www.completestreets.org. In states with strong context-sensitive solutions programs, complete streets policies can be incorporated into those programs (See Policy #3, Adopt a context-sensitive approach for all state transportation projects, in this section.) Department of transportation project managers should be required to justify and document any exceptions to this policy.
Under a robust complete streets policy, most federal transportation funding programs will be used to create complete streets, because projects will consider the needs of all users from inception. Communities seeking funding to retrofit existing "incomplete" streets can fund such projects from Surface Transportation Funds. Smaller, specialized programs can also help. The Safe Routes to School (See Policy #5, Establish a "Safe Routes to School" program, in the Department of Education section) program provides funding for pedestrian and bicycle facilities that improve access to schools. In air quality non-attainment areas, infrastructure improvements can be funded under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (see Policy #4, Take advantage of flexible federal transportation funding, in this section). Other federal programs, such as the Transportation Enhancements and the Recreational Trails programs, can also provide critically needed funds. Most importantly, the development of good multi-modal streets can be integrated into core transportation funding in a cost-effective and fiscally sound way.
- Illinois' Complete Streets Policy
The State of Illinois amended its state highway code in October 2007 to ensure that, "bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full consideration in the planning and development of transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such ways into State-funded transportation plans and programs." The policy was effective immediately for project planning and is required in construction beginning August 2008.
— Illinois' Complete Streets Policy SB0314
— Illinois Complete Streets press release
Many more policy examples are available from the National Complete Streets Coalition, which also offers day-long Complete Streets Implementation Assistance workshops for communities ready to write or implement a complete streets policy.