What does a Complete Street look like?
A Complete Street in a rural area will look quite different from a Complete Street in a highly urban area, but both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road. Every Complete Street Location is unique and responds to its community context
What are the benefits of Complete Streets?
Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, jobs, and schools, bicycle to work, and move actively with assistive devices. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk or move actively to and from train stations. They are designed and operated to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the street, not just as originally planned in the past as routes for vehicles.
Why are we talking about Complete Streets?
In a new report submitted to Congress, the Federal Department of Transportation is aiming to prioritize the safety and health of multiple users of a typical 21st century roadway. With approximately one-third of U.S. traffic fatalities being people outside of vehicles (motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc.) the goal is to provide safe roadways and streets for these users such as riders of public transit, electric scooters, and even to Uber rideshare pickups and people delivering goods.
Recently (See Washington Post Article, Buttigieg tells states to consider safety for road projects), Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, has announced an initiative approved by President Joe Biden for Surface Transportation Infrastructure to do more than widen roads: The protection and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists will be considered in the allocation of Highway and related transportation funds.
“A Complete Street is safe, and feels safe, for everyone using the street,” said Stephanie Pollack, the deputy head of the highway administration. “We can’t keep people safe on our roads if we don’t have safer roads and roads that slow down drivers to safe speeds and provide protection to the non-motorized vehicle users. (from the Washington Post Article, March 2, 2022).
Will this impact State and Community Federal Funding?
Funding of Infrastructure is always a key concern for owners and users of transportation infrastructure. Over the past half-century, a partnership between the States (including Counties and Cities) and the Federal Government to provide funding for the safe, efficient, and reliable means of transportation, has been established through user fees and primarily taxes on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel. The use of these funds for roads, bridges, public transit, and airports has always involved compliance with Federal Regulations and Laws about design of these facilities (loads, dimensions, materials, life-cycle costs) but has evolved to also include responsible stewardship of the environment, communities, and other associated elements beyond the traditional roadway infrastructure.
States and other entities have had to adapt their strategies and programs for their transportation infrastructure to comply with these newer “mandates” to remain eligible to receive funding or reimbursement for their projects. Projects such as bike paths and traffic roundabouts, enhanced sidewalks, pedestrian pathways to bus stops and transit lanes will be favored in the distribution of funds (per the Washington Post Article). This is a change from a longtime precedent by the states to direct federal money toward adding lanes to relieve congestion and speed motorized vehicle traffic flow, not necessarily focusing on other users or stakeholders in the communities living next to these busy roadways.
How can a community adapt to compete for the Federal funding for their roadway network while meeting Complete Street goals?
Communities and others who are seeking a portion of the Federal Highway Funding for their roadways need to strongly consider their projects with the Complete Streets directive firmly included in the overall Scope of Service. Often, streets and roads designed over 50 or more years ago have seen significant changes, especially in an urban core, that would lend to the application of Complete Streets practices to their facilities.
As an example, the City of Indianapolis recently reduced many of their one-way inner urban core streets which were often 6 lanes of traffic in a one-way configuration with parking lanes also in the mix, to 4 lanes of traffic and were able to use the other lanes to become dedicated, separate bicycle lanes and separate pedestrian sidewalks. This permitted more installation of rain gardens, landscaping features, lighting, protected crossing locations for pedestrians, mini-park settings with benches and a host of other desirable attributes for a “livable & workable” community. The combined investment by the City and other partners resulted in less traffic involved pedestrian accidents, no decrease in Level of Service for vehicular users, an increase in property values, and the desire for people to live in the downtown area that used to be sparsely populated. This is the potential result of incorporating Complete Streets practices in a community.
Let NTH help your community compete for this Federal funding!
Closer to home, NTH Consultants, Ltd. (NTH) partnered with an award-winning Landscape Architectural Design Firm to transform 1.3 miles of Livernois Avenue in the City of Detroit to a “Complete Streets” concept improving pedestrian walkability, increasing bicycle access, and calming vehicular traffic flow on this portion of Livernois Avenue from Margareta Street to 8 Mile Road. Nicknamed the “Avenue of Fashion”, this areas’ original roadway was a 4-lane divided boulevard, configured as two lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a concrete median and center-turn lane while posted for a moderately-high speed limit.
NTH was responsible for the preparation of the contract documents and specifications for the reconstruction of the entire corridor within the right-of-way limits. The scope of services included new roadway design (reduction of travel lanes), utility upgrades, widening of the existing sidewalks, and the addition of separated bicycle lanes. Maintenance of Traffic and Phasing with detours for the construction activities was also a key component of NTH’s design responsibility. This $17M construction project was complete from design to construction closeout in 2 years and received an Award of Merit for Engineering from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan.
NTH has from our founding, worked on being current with the initiatives/ requirements our clients face on their operations and infrastructure. Let us help with your infrastructure project!
Philip Rasor, Jr., P.E.
Transportation Market Leader