As She Walks Out the Door, Gov. Rell Makes it Safer to Walk Down the Street

"As a state, we have made some progress in changing priorities to better incorporate and respond to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists," Gov. Rell said at a press conference on Friday. "However, the time has come to step up the pace."

On Friday, outgoing Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell announced significant changes to ConnDOT’s bike and pedestrian policies aimed to improve the delivery of projects, increase the pot of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects and enhance the existing design manual so cyclists and pedestrians are fully considered as part of the design process, as required by the 2009 Complete Streets Law.

ConnDOT and advocates took a walking tour of East Haven to identify pedestrian issues. The agency now plans to narrow and remove travel lanes along Route 100 in East Haven.

Most dramatically, ConnDOT will open up a new pot of money to bike and pedestrian projects — its $43 million in annual federal Surface Transportation Program-Urban funds. Legally, these funds can be spent on almost any type of transportation improvement, but ConnDOT policy has been not to use them for pedestrian or cycling projects. Tri-State has long called for the agency to take advantage of flexibility in federal funds.

In addition, ConnDOT will reform its sidewalk policy, helping municipalities complete sidewalk gaps and create safer walking environments.  In the past, ConnDOT would help pay for replacement of existing sidewalks along state roads, but not new sidewalks.  This forced municipalities to cover the local share in its entirety.  The new policy treats sidewalks “the same as any other element of a road construction project,” allowing new sidewalks to be built with federal, state and local dollars.

Also announced was a “Quick-Fix” program which will use operations funding for simple projects that make roadways safer for cyclists and pedestrians.  TSTC and ConnDOT have been working together on this initiative over the past six months, and representatives from TSTC, ConnDOT, AARP and the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board conducted a walking tour in August at the site of ConnDOT’s pilot program along Route 100 and Park Place in East Haven.

That walking tour identified cheap and quick fixes to the roads, like narrowing driving lanes, expanding shoulders and re-striping pedestrian crosswalks that will go a long way towards creating safer walking and cycling environments.  The formalization of this program — hopefully with a name that identifies the intent of the program more clearly — will continue these efforts throughout the state.  Upon adoption of a new federal bill ConnDOT has expressed interest in expanding the program to include capital investments for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as well.

Finally, ConnDOT will fast-track the completion of gaps in the East Coast Greenway and the Farmington Canal Trail, promising stepped-up collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection to fully implement and build these trails.

These policy changes are a welcome next step towards transforming Connecticut into a more multi-modal state.  Rell has left incoming Governor Dan Malloy with a good foundation to continue progressive bicycle and pedestrian transportation policy.  Given his track record as a champion for sustainable transportation initiatives as mayor of Stamford, TSTC holds high hopes for continued support for these initiatives at the State level.

Photos: Ryan Lynch/TSTC.

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