Complete streets are easier to cross on foot. They are safer for biking. They also reduce the number of car crashes, especially the rate of injury-causing higher speed wrecks. Basically, complete streets are about creating streets designed for people.
Two bills in Olympia this year, HB 1700 and HB 1071, would ease the creation of complete streets in Washington. HB 1700 will ease design standards, giving municipalities more tools for designing roads projects. It would also mandate that roads be built to support people of all ages and ability using all modes of transportation. From the Cascade Bicycle Club blog:
First, HB 1700 amends the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) to allow cities, towns, and counties to use the most current version of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guidelines when designing bicycle and pedestrian ways. This is an important step forward for Washington state communities because AASHTO’s design guidelines are currently being updated and are generally more flexible and comprehensive than those in WSDOT’s Highway Design Manual.
Likewise, local jurisdictions are also allowed to meet the standards of an “equivalent design guide”, which may pave the way for local adoption of an even more progressive manual, like that produced by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). In short, communities will have a larger toolbox of bicycle and pedestrian design treatments at their fingertips, resulting in more innovative ways to get pedestrians and cyclists along and across local roadways.
Among the more unfortunate parts of being a complete streets enthusiast is the need to read and care about road engineering guidelines with long acronyms (MUTCD, ASSHTO, NACTO…). These engineering guidelines are designed to create uniformity and predictability on our roads and to help engineers design new projects that meet a tested standard. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s road engineering guidelines focus on moving cars as quickly as possible and mostly ignore the needs of other road users or the fabric of neighborhoods split in half by uncrossable arterial streets.
If a city attempts something outside of the legally recognized set of guidelines, the city could potentially open themselves up to liability. For more on the manual, the video I posted here is good.
HB 1071 is a separate bill that would create a grant program for state complete streets projects. From Cascade:
HB 1071 creates a Complete Streets grant program (pending future funding) that provides cities with incentives to adopt Complete Streets ordinances. The proposed bill also directs WSDOT to work with local communities to create safe roadway environments for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people of all ages and abilities on state highways that reside within incorporated cities. On Friday, Jan. 28, HB 1071 passed out of the House Transportation Committee.
Both these bills have a good list of supporters. Freshman representative Joe Fitzgibbon introduced HB 1700 and is a co-sponsor of HB 1071. Cascade also gave a shout out to Marko Liias, Andy Billig and Republican Transportation Committee member Mike Armstrong for their support of HB 1700.