Complete Streets and the American Jobs Act

President Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress.
President Barack Obama outlines the details of the American Jobs Act during an address to a Joint Session of Congress. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The President’s American Jobs Act would make a considerable and welcome investment in transportation infrastructure…but what would it mean for Complete Streets?

The most promising element is a big boost to the merit-based, multi-modal TIGER program that has helped build complete streets across the country. In his proposal, $5 billion of the $50 billion to transportation would be split between TIGER and TIFIA, a loan program to finance surface transportation projects. These projects bring immediate jobs as well as lasting value to communities.

Most of the funding will go toward into more traditional transportation programs, but that doesn’t mean Complete Streets can’t be a part of the picture, particularly in states and localities that have Complete Streets policies.

The biggest portion going to transportation will be $27 billion distributed among existing highway programs, and additional $9 billion for transit projects. Ten billion will go to a new infrastructure bank, open to transportation, water, and energy infrastructure. The President said this new program will fund projects “based on how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy.”

Those two criteria are good screens for the whole transportation portion of the bill, and several Coalition partners have done good work communicating why.

In terms of being good for the economy, we know that Complete Streets-style investments, such as bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects, add more jobs than traditional highway projects.

In terms of need, the need for safer streets is crystal clear; you can look up that need for your own region on Transportation for America’s map of pedestrian fatalities around the country. Fourteen percent of transportation fatalities are people on foot and bicycle.

The American Jobs Act could save lives as well as jobs, if the transportation projects result in complete streets.

Next week: more on the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill!

Complete Streets