Connecticut General Assembly Passes Amended Complete Streets Bill

[Post updated 4:18 pm to reflect bill passage.]

The Connecticut General Assembly has passed an amended complete streets bill. The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation last week; the House vote today was mainly along party lines. The bill now goes to Governor Rell’s desk for approval.

ConnDOT's long-range plan includes a mandate to "increase the accessibility and mobility of people"

ConnDOT's long-range plan includes a mandate to expand mobility for pedestrians and cyclists.

While amendments to the legislation have weakened the bill, it still retains language that says at least 1% of transportation funding must be dedicated to bike and pedestrian infrastructure, establishes a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, and directs the ConnDOT Commissioner to provide a report at the end of 2009 and 2010 that consists of a list of bicycle and pedestrian access projects funded by the State Transportation Fund and by federal programs like the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ). In the past, ConnDOT has largely relied on one-time federal earmarks to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects and often ignored other federal sources.

Unfortunately the passed legislation withdrew language that would have pre-designated 5% of CMAQ funding for “safe routes to school,” “safe routes for seniors” and “safe routes to transit” projects. It also added unnecessary exemptions to the Complete Streets requirement.  In the original legislation, projects could be exempted from the requirement to accommodate all road users if doing so had excessive cost, if the road was limited-access, or if there was a demonstrated absence of need. The final language includes an exemption from accommodation of users in the event of a “state or municipal transportation emergency” and if the “accommodation of all users is not consistent with the state’s or such municipality’s, respectively, program of construction, maintenance and repair.”

Considering that ConnDOT’s latest draft long-range plan (See pages 30 and 34) includes mandates on ‘Ensuring Safety on the Transportation System’ and ‘Reducing Energy Use and Negative Impacts to Quality of Life & the Environment from the Transportation System,’ this last exemption should rarely, if ever, be justifiable.

Regardless of the language change, passage of Complete Streets in Connecticut is a victory for cycling, walking and livable streets advocates, and is a significant step towards creating a safer environment for all users of Connecticut’s roads. Please take time to thank your legislators for supporting this bill, particularly Senator Donald DeFronzo and Representative Thomas Kehoe, who carried the bill in the Senate and House, respectively.

Image: From ConnDOT Strategic Long-Range Transportation Plan.

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