State Legislation Updates – April 2011

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A $200 million bill for local roadway projects, including bikeways and sidewalks, and bridge repair proposed by Governor Deval Patrick was redrafted by lawmakers to include a $15 million fund to be spent specifically on the planning, design, and construction of Complete Streets. This amendment, put forward by Rep. Carl Sciortino of Medford, was stripped from the final bill, despite support for Complete Streets from committee members. Though the additional transportation funds would likely be welcomed by localities looking to complete their transportation networks, the final $250 million bill provides enough flexibility for localities to use the funds for complete streets; indeed, a 1996 law requires accommodation of bicycling and walking. Lawmakers continue to explore ways to ensure the state funds Complete Streets projects, noting that doing so was key to implementing last session’s transportation reform bill.

HCR 23, a Complete Streets resolution, passed the State House of Representatives on April 12. It now awaits action in the Senate. Advocates worked to ensure the resolution moved forward before its sponsor, Rep. Sally Faith, leaves state office to become Mayor of Saint Charles.

Rhode Island
Two bills are working their way through the Rhode Island legislature. H5821 declares support of Complete Streets and would establish a Complete Streets Committee to ensure full implementation of Complete Streets throughout the state. H5886 defines Complete Streets, requires use of federal and state funds be used to develop complete streets with limited exceptions, and sets a reporting requirement on progress. The Providence Journal reports concerns among legislators on costs. Advocates, including AARP Rhode Island and the Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter among others, continue to do education on how these bills will lead to prioritizing projects that serve everyone in Rhode Island.

The Texas Department of Transportation put out a new memo stating its commitment to “proactively plan, design, and construct facilities to safely accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.” The memo (.pdf) provides guidance for both urbanized and rural settings and shows that TxDOT is committed to a policy inline with the Complete Streets bills in the state legislature. The two bills, HB 1105 and SB 513, would expand on the memo to ensure safe accommodations not only for bicyclists and pedestrians, but also public transportation users and people of all ages and abilities. The bills had their first hearing in the House on March 23 and in the Senate on April 13. Testimony at both hearings represented the wide range of people who support Complete Streets, including advocates for older adults and for children’s health, bicycling advocates, local elected officials, and transportation professionals. A proposed amendment to the Senate bill redefines excessive cost as 5% of the total bill, which would put the pending legislation out of step with all state policies adopted to date and with federal guidance. More importantly, imposing such a cap will likely hamper TxDOT’s ability to follow through on its new memo.

HB 1071, which would establish but not fund a grant program for communities adopting Complete Streets ordinances, has passed out of both the House and Senate and now awaits signature from Governor Christine Gregoire. Meanwhile, HB 1700, which would require the state Department of Transportation provide for all users, increase public participation, and adopt new design guidance that could provide increased flexibility to localities and the state awaits a vote in the Senate Rules Committee. If passed, it would move to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Complete Streets