Charlotte’s Complete Streets Policy Wins National Award

The USDG made Elizabeth Avenue a complete street. Photo: EPA/Abby Hall
The USDG made Elizabeth Avenue a complete street. Photo: EPA/Abby Hall

On December 1st, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Charlotte, NC’s Urban Street Design Guidelines – a model in complete streets planning and design – with the coveted National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in Policies and Regulations.

“We congratulate the City of Charlotte on this accomplishment, which confirms what we’ve known for years: Charlotte is showing the way for American cities that want to turn away from sprawling, automobile-oriented development toward providing livable streets that are safe and comfortable for all people, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation,” said Barbara McCann, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.

“The way I look at it, we are responsible for about 30 percent of the land in the City of Charlotte,” said Danny Pleasant, Director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “It only makes sense to do everything possible to make sure that it contributes to community livability and is an asset to our community.”

The Urban Street Design Guidelines (USDG), adopted by City Council in October 2007, focus on providing the best possible streets to accommodate growth, create transportation choices, and maintain Charlotte’s livability. According to the EPA Award, the USDG promote sustainable development patterns and streets that are more pleasant and safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. In accepting the award, Pleasant added, “We hope our whole nation can come to complete streets.” A video featuring residents, business owners, and elected officials discussing the positive impacts of Charlotte’s USDG will soon be available on the EPA website.

The USDG create a six-step process for designing streets wherein the varying interests and needs of all users – and various land uses – are considered and the design tradeoffs are systematically examined for every project. This process is taught in our Complete Streets workshops, and is a model for communities implementing complete streets policies. This process, along with the design guidance provided in the USDG, has already helped transform a multitude of urban and suburban streets and intersections. The USDG offer a clear path to creating roads that are more sustainable and offer greater safety and livability.

Charlotte’s story will be explored in-depth in the upcoming Best Practices Manual on Complete Streets, to be published in January 2010 by the American Planning Association.

Through the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, EPA seeks to recognize and support public entities (from cities to state governments and the many types of public entities in-between) that promote and achieve smart growth, while at the same time bringing about direct and indirect environmental benefits.

Complete Streets