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Complete Streets Leadership Academies Report

Smart Growth America, with support from CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation initiative℠, launched the Complete Streets Leadership Academies in Alaska, California, Connecticut, and Tennessee to equip and train local agencies and state departments of transportation to collaborate, innovate, and commit to making changes together to address safety on these dangerous state-owned roads. Cohorts were selected to plan and implement “quick-build” demonstration projects, a way to pilot and test new ideas and street designs to activate streets and better support walking, biking, and rolling.

About the program

The Complete Streets Leadership Academies (CSLA), launched in 2022, combined a series of virtual sessions and in-person workshops to develop and pilot processes to effectively deploy community-led quick-build projects on state-owned roads. Program participants included city or county staff, engineers, planners, public health practitioners, and community advocates. The sessions and workshops covered the basics of quick-build projects including site selection, design, community engagement, and data collection. SGA challenged participants to deploy a quick-build project during the program and consider how to apply the lessons learned from the demonstration to inform future safety interventions and the processes that would support further innovation. Participating communities received grants between $10,000 and $15,000 to support the implementation of their projects.

It is worth noting that SGA required state DOTs to be the lead applicant for participation in this program. Without the partnership, dedication, and leadership of the state DOT, any local policy or intervention will likely run up against significant challenges on a state-owned road due to the inability to make design changes without seeking approval first from the state DOT. This is often a lengthy process that can result in a community being forced to change its vision due to state guidelines or plans. This early demonstration of commitment was critical to this program’s success and led state DOTs to consider how to better incorporate quick-builds across their entire states going forward.

Overall, the program aimed to create a space and a project where state DOTs, local jurisdictions, and community and public health partners could come together to:

  1. Learn together and from one another about the role Complete Streets plays in improving, health, safety, and conditions for people walking and rolling, and how quick-build demonstrations can be powerful tools to nimbly explore and address these issues.
  2. Build relationships between local staff and their state counterparts, fostering partnerships that will continue and sustain the work after program completion.
  3. Combine the valuable technical and regulatory knowledge that state DOTs possess with the desire that local leaders have to make their most dangerous streets more safe.

Download the report and read the case studies