A Broad, Bipartisan Push for NY Complete Streets

In New York, the coalition standing behind a complete streets bill to make roads safer for all is even broader this year. Yesterday, State Senator Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, introduced an amended version of the complete streets bill (S.05411), co-sponsored by Senator Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn), the committee’s ranking minority member. The bill has also received the endorsement of the state associations for town and county highway superintendents—who, last year, led the charge against the bill. Other supporters include AARP, the state’s largest environmental groups, the Long Island Lobby Coalition, and many transportation, health, and planning groups across the state.

Complete streets in different contexts.

The bill would require that agencies consider the needs of all road users through Complete Streets design features in road projects receiving state and federal funding. As the bill states, these features “shall include, but not be limited to: sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, lane striping, bicycle lanes, share the road signage, crosswalks, road diets, pedestrian control signalization, bus pull outs, curb cuts, raised crosswalks and ramps and traffic calming measures.”

“We’ve repeatedly found that what makes a road dangerous is poor design—exactly what a state Complete Streets law will fix,” said TSTC’s Kate Slevin in a release from Fuschillo’s office. “We thank Senator Fuschillo for his tremendous leadership on this issue and are proud to stand with him in support of safer streets.” Tri-State has analyzed pedestrian fatalities both downstate and upstate and found that the deadliest roads are wide, fast streets running through populated areas without proper accommodation for walkers, cyclists, and transit riders.

Last year, the bill was labeled an “unfunded mandate” by opponents — the kiss of death in Albany. This March, lead advocates for the bill—AARP, Tri-State and the NY Bicycling Coalition—sat at the table with the New York State Association of Town Highway Superintendents, the New York State County Highway Superintendents’ Association, Association of Counties, and the Association of Towns.

It became clear that one word was the key stumbling block. Last year’s bill applied to all projects “eligible” for state and federal funding. Because not all projects eligible for federal funding receive it, local governments feared that the law would have required additional review steps even for projects not receiving federal dollars.  The new language substitutes “receive” with “eligible,” thus allaying concerns without watering down the bill. By applying to roads that receive state and federal funds, the bill would encompass most major projects without being characterized as an unfunded mandate.

Advocates also wanted to make clear that complete streets are not a one-size-fits-all design fix – designing for rural roads will be very different than designing for city streets. New language was included that states the “needs of users of the road network vary according to a rural, urban and suburban context.”

Although a state complete streets law passed the Senate with flying colors last year, it never made it to the Assembly floor. The Assembly may be the biggest obstacle this year as well. As a candidate, Governor Cuomo supported state complete streets legislation, and State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said her agency needed to consider “complete streets concepts” at a March event, though neither has commented on the specific bill introduced yesterday.

Sandi Vega’s Work for Complete Streets Highlighted

Among the hardest working advocates for complete streets has been Sandi Vega of Wantagh, NY. As MTR has highlighted before, Sandi has been working towards a complete streets law since her daughter Brittany was killed while walking to school last year. A recent Newsday article highlighted her work, which has included meeting with local and state officials, and gathering 4,000 signatures in support of the law. We could not be more proud to partner with Sandi.

Photos: National Complete Streets Coalition.

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