Over the holiday weekend, Governor Rell took time out from budget negotiations with legislative Democrats to sign the Complete Streets bill, legislation that was passed last month by the Connecticut General Assembly. The law, the first of its kind in the tri-state area, dedicates 1% of transportation funding 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.
Governor Rell should be applauded for signing the bill fairly quickly, and Representative Thomas Kehoe and State Senator Donald DeFronzo deserve plaudits for shepherding the bill through the General Assembly.
However, it is now up to ConnDOT to fill a gap in the bill, the removal of a provision from the original legislative draft that would have predesignated CMAQ and Highway Safety Improvement Program funding for Safe Routes to School, Safe Routes for Seniors and Safe Routes to Transit programs. If ConnDOT made it departmental policy to fund these programs, it would show that change can happen from within the agency, and not only as the result of legislative and executive directives.
Regardless, the enactment of a complete streets law is a major step towards creating safer environments for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike, and Connecticut’s supportive elected officials should be applauded.