At 1000 Friends Conference, Panel Argues for Complete Streets

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Panel participants discussed complete streets policy. From left: State Rep. David McCluskey (standing), Susan Van Benschoten, TSTC's Ryan Lynch, New Haven Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale.

One reason smart growth is called “smart” is because it creates a lively street experience and reduces automobile use by allowing people to walk, cycle, and take transit to many destinations. So it was fitting that last week’s 1000 Friends of Connecticut Smart Growth Conference in New Haven devoted a panel discussion to the complete streets approach, which argues that roads must be planned to accommodate all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

Susan Van Benschoten, chief operating officer of planning firm Fitzgerald and Halliday, began with a general overview of the complete streets approach. TSTC senior planner Ryan Lynch identified key aspects of strong complete streets policies, using examples from around the country. For example, Oregon’s policy mandates that all roads in the state accommodate non-motorized users, while a weaker policy might apply only to state roads, or say only that the state “consider” all users while planning projects. He also discussed complete streets legislation being debated in Congress (the presentation is available here).

New Haven Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale rounded out the discussion with her experiences shepherding complete streets legislation through New Haven’s Board of Alders. New Haven’s traffic calming movement gained traction as citizens responded to the pedestrian deaths of a Yale medical student and a fifth-grader in the spring and summer; Sturgis-Pascale was one of two sponsors of recently passed legislation that will create a committee (of elected and agency officials and members of the public) that will guide the development of a complete streets policy, design manual, community planning process, and educational campaign.

The panel, moderated by Connecticut State Representative David McCluskey and organized by the Capital Region Council of Government’s Sandy Fry, will hopefully serve as a catalyst for implementing good complete streets policy at the state level in Connecticut, or at the very least, throughout other municipalities and towns in Connecticut.

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