As more cities incorporate concepts like “complete streets” into their long-term plans, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is urging Congress to do the same when developing the next surface transportation program. The organization wants federally funded projects to make the right of way accessible for all users — a goal supported by groups ranging from the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The next authorization bill must take into account the important role played by road-related investments in enhancing communities,” says AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.

Bill Lewis, chief mobility engineer for the City of Columbus, Ohio, agrees.

“All roads, whether a new street or a retrofit for a bike path, should be candidates,” he says. In 2008 the city adopted a plan to quadruple the number of shared-use paths over the next decade. The estimated cost for 200 miles of pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly paths is $118 million.

Since 2000, state DOTs have used $5.2 billion to fund bicycle and pedestrian programs. In 2007, states spent $13.3 billion on transit, compared to federal funding of $10.7 billion. “What's been missing from the national dialogue on livability is what can be accomplished through road-related improvements,” Horsley says.

If livability concepts don't make it into the highway bill, the House of Representatives is ready to take up the charge. “Complete Streets Act of 2009” directs state DOTs to adopt similar policies on federally funded transportation projects.