At the end of 2015, Congress passed a five-year $305 billion federal transportation bill — The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. It was the first transportation bill to ever include Complete Streets language, and the first law enacted in more than 10 years to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation.
The Complete Streets provisions in the FAST Act represent a great step forward in the effort to make streets across the country safer for everyone who uses them. Notably, the bill requires National Highway System roadway designs to take into account access for all modes of transportation. It also makes NACTO’s Urban Design Guide one of the standards for when the U.S. Department of Transportation designs roads, and it permits local governments to use their own adopted design guide if they are the lead project sponsor, even if it differs from state guidelines.
Now, more than a year after the FAST Act’s passage, Complete Streets projects are among its many successes. That was one of the themes discussed during a House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing last week about the bill’s implementation.
“In my district in Las Vegas we’ve just had an increase in pedestrian deaths,” explained Congresswoman Dina Titus, who sits on the Committee. “So having a policy that begins with the planning through the construction through the operation of transportation that includes all users is, I think, very beneficial.”
Congresswoman Titus asked the assembled panel for their perspectives on a Complete Streets approach. Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, GA was among them, and he explained how Atlanta voters’ investments in Complete Streets are now paying off.
“I think that the Complete Streets approach is bearing good fruit,” Mayor Reed testified. “It needs to be pushed at every opportunity if you want your city or community to be a leading one, because it’s what people want when they’re looking for a place to make a permanent home.”
That’s true in places beside Atlanta. “In Oklahoma City we have the rent-a-bike program and it’s growing exponentially,” testified J. Michael Patterson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Oklahoma City relocated a section of I-40 that had previously run through downtown and is working to replace it with a Complete Streets boulevard. “We believe once the new boulevard is in place [bikesharing] will explode, much like you see here in Washington, DC,” he added.
But perhaps one of the most important contributions a Complete Streets approach brings to transportation is its emphasis on all phases of project planning, design, and implementation.
“I think the benefit, and you certainly are aware, is how all the different modes work together in a single corridor,” said Gary Thomas, President and Executive Director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. “Whether it be bikes, buses, pedestrians, automobiles — that planning effort is what makes all that happen. And so often the planning effort is skipped so thank you for making sure it’s been included in the FAST Act.”
Watch the full subcommittee hearing above. Commentary on Complete Streets provisions begins at 1:49:00.