A new piece of legislation has been introduced into Congress that aims to promote safety and more accessible transportation routes in all 50 states. The bill would require states to use a portion of their federal highway money to create a grant program to fund safer and more accessible projects.
The Complete Streets Act would mandate that states use five percent of their federal highway money to create a grant program that would fund “complete streets” projects to make transit routes more safe and accessible. The act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) and in the Senate by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).
The officials define a complete street as one “designed to provide safe and accessible transportation options for multiple modes of travel, as well as for people of all ages and abilities.” The concept accommodates the needs and safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and provides a safer transport environment for children, older individuals and individuals with disabilities.
“We are facing a national safety crisis,” said Cohen. “Over the past decade, this country has seen a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrians killed while walking. We need streets that can accommodate all means of transportation, from foot traffic and strollers to cars, light trucks and 18-wheelers. The grants made under the Complete Streets Act will transform communities and make them safer.”
Once a state establishes a “complete streets” program, eligible local and regional entities would apply for technical assistance and capital funding to build safe streets projects, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks and bus stops.
“Our roads and sidewalks are far more than a means of transportation. They are a means of economic growth and community development, and we must make them safe and accessible for everyone,” said Markey. “When we have ‘complete streets’, we can have complete communities – comprehensive centers for employment, education, health care, civic life and commerce. Whether you are traveling by foot, spoke or pass, everyone deserves ‘complete streets’, and this legislation will help fund transportation options for the 21st century.”
The legislation is co-sponsored in the House by Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) and in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
Gallego’s congressional district had the most pedestrian fatalities between 2008 to 2017, according to data from Smart Growth America. Cohen’s district is ranked 22.
“We’ve spent decades now designing our streets to move cars as quickly as possible while neglecting the safety of everyone using the street,” said Emiko Atherton, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. “The result? The number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking increased by 35 percent over the last decade. The federal government must take the lead on prioritizing safer streets, and the Complete Streets Act of 2019 represents the best, most direct effort yet to help states, metro areas, cities, towns and counties design and build safer, complete streets.”
Transportation Network Companies such as Lyft, Uber and Via have also expressed support of the new legislation.
“Via believes that designing our streets to encourage sustainable forms of transportation is critical to eliminating congestion, reducing the emission of harmful pollutants, expanding economic mobility and making our communities more livable,” said Via’s Head of Public Policy Andrei Greenawalt.
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