Sharing Local Concerns for User Safety on Roadways, Congressman Auchincloss and Senator Markey Reintroduce Complete Streets Act


Photo by Steve DiMatto on Unsplash.

Sidewalks, safety, and bike lanes appear to be a popular discussion topic lately, both locally as well as on the national stage.

This week, on January 25th, Congressman Jake Auchincloss (MA-4) joined with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee to reintroduce what they say is an improved version of the proposed Complete Streets Act, which aims to make roads safer and more accessible by ensuring that states direct five percent of their federal highway funding towards the creation of a Complete Streets Program. 

Congressman Auchincloss stated,“Walking shouldn’t be dangerous. Pedestrian deaths are surging in the United States, and Congress must respond. Promoting Complete Streets helps ensure that pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists operate safely. And the design and infrastructure of Complete Streets is not just safer – it’s also better for ambience, the environment, and retail.”

Locally, last week on January 18th, Westwood Select Board Chair Marianne LeBlanc Cummings opened the first meeting of the Canton Street Project Working Group. The working group was formed by Westwood Select Board following the board's decision to attempt a redesign of plans for Westwood's Canton Street corridor

A redesign of Canton Street's reconstruction was ordered after residents voiced disapproval of the initial design which proposed, among other things, widening Canton Street with a shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists. The initial design had been proposed with state funding requirements in mind, but many residents objected to what they said was the design's lack of consideration for maintaining the scenic character of the street. Others supported the design for increasing safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

The idea of a “complete street” under the proposed legislation before U.S. Congress is one that provides safe and accessible transportation options for children, seniors, and people with disabilities by prioritizing infrastructure for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit users. 

"When we fund a complete street, we make a community complete with equitable, safe, and accessible transportation—all while reducing our reliance on gas-guzzling vehicle," said Senator Markey.

The idea now being proposed nationally had earlier beginnings in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Department of Transportation offers a Complete Streets Funding Program. Before joining Congress, Representative Auchincloss chaired the City of Newton's Public Safety and Transportation Committee as a member of City Council, where he pursued the idea of complete streets for that city. Goals at that time were to connect people to jobs and services, and create better transit infrastructure along with a walkable downtown.

Under the reintroduced Complete Streets Act, eligible local and regional entities would be able to use funds from their state’s Complete Streets Program for technical assistance and capital funding to build safe street projects such as sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and bus stops.  Interestingly, the proposed legislation also would include the requirement that a complete streets policy of eligible entities "be context sensitive," "complement the community," and include consideration of "the urban, suburban, or rural location in which a project is located." 

States would have a phased in requirement to incorporate complete streets elements into all new construction and reconstruction. 

Bill Nesper, the executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, supports the proposed legislation, saying, “Everyone should be able to safely walk or bike with their kids to the playground. The Complete Streets Act would give local governments access to the resources and funding to invest in safer roads in our communities. Too often that trip to the playground is blocked by an intersection too dangerous for families to cross, or streets without sidewalks for families to walk on.”

The legislation is also endorsed by the National Complete Streets Coalition, Center for American Progress, and the Livable Streets Alliance.

Thanks to the Office of Congressman Jake Auchincloss for sharing news of this proposed legislation with Westwood Minute.

You may also be interested in reading:

Select Board Authorizes Redesign of Canton Street Corridor Plans (Updated)

Select Board to Take Action on Canton Street Corridor Project, Following Large Turnout at Public Hearing (Updated)

Select Board Hears about Canton Street Residents' Opposition to Proposed Sidewalk Design

Newton Teen is a Congressional Art Competition Winner

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