The entire U.S. Department of Transportation leadership was in snowy Minneapolis yesterday to hear from local elected officials, DOT heads from four states, agency officials, transportation researchers, and advocates in the second stop of their Reauthorization Listening Tour.
They heard plenty about complete streets. During the plenary session, Minnesota DOT Secretary Tom Sorel spoke about his support for complete streets and his work with the statewide coalition on a bill soon to be introduced in the state legislature. I gave a short presentation on the safety and livability aspects (.pdf) of complete streets in Minnesota and nationwide.
Every breakout session featured at least one complete streets proponent, including Ethan Fawley, head of the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition; Richard Murphy, President of the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects; and Mayor John Robert Smith, President and CEO of Reconnecting America and co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Michael Huber discussed the insurer’s commitment to prevention and its support of a variety of programs to promote active living, including complete streets. With their support, we brought complete streets workshops to communities across Minnesota that are actively pursuing complete streets policies locally. Several elected officials, including Councilmember Steve Elkins of Bloomington and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, spoke about their complete streets efforts.
For the most part, Secretary Ray LaHood simply listened to the presenters, speaking briefly to introduce the all-star lineup. He did, however, say he believes Americans truly want more transportation options, and the re-authorization should deliver such choices. U.S. Representative James Oberstar co-hosted the gathering and stated several times that complete streets fits squarely into his concept of livability in the new transportation authorization.
While both Secretary LaHood and Representative Oberstar expressed their strong belief that a federal transportation authorization is of critical and immediate importance, there was little indication that the bill will be moving forward in the near future. In the meantime, support for complete streets provisions in that bill continues to grow.