As more and 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 -- drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and the handicapped - a goal supported by groups ranging from the powerful Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "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, the chief mobility engineer in the Columbus, Ohio, Division of Mobility Options, agrees.
"All roads, whether it's a new street or a retrofit for a bike path, should be candidates," he says. In 2008 the city adopted a Bicentennial Bikeways Plan that quadruples the number of shared-use paths over the next decade. But implementation isn't cheap; 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. "But what's been missing from the national dialogue on livability is what can be accomplished through road-related improvements," Horsley says.
One such improvement highlighted in AASHTO's recent Road to Livability report is The Cap at Union Station, a $7.8 million retail development built into an interstate bridge to connect downtown Columbus with an arts and entertainment district. The Cap houses 25,496 square feet of commercial space.
AARP has issued a report titled "Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America," and the CDC promotes the concept in its battle against obesity.
If livability concepts don't make it into the reauthorized highway bill, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit is ready to take up the charge. "Complete Streets Act of 2009" directs state DOTs and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to adopt similar policies on federally funded transportation projects.