[Update 6/16: New Yorkers: Please take a few minutes to call Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (518-455-3791) and your State Assemblymember to say you support A8366, the Complete Streets bill.]
In the eleventh hour of the Albany legislative session, there is good news about the Complete Streets bill to make roads safer for all: On Sunday night, a 3-way negotiation between the Governor’s office, the State Senate, and the Assembly apparently broke legislative gridlock. An amended bill was introduced in both the Assembly (A8366) and Senate (S5411.A) late yesterday, and legislative leaders are saying it will likely be voted on this week.
The bill would require that, for all road projects receiving state and federal funds, the agency in charge of the project consider the needs of everyone who uses the roads, using complete streets features such as sidewalks, curb cuts, road diets, and bike lanes. Agencies would have to publicly demonstrate a “lack of need” or show that such features would have “disproportionate cost” in order to not include them. NYSDOT would also release a progress report after 2 years showing how it had changed its practices to comply with the law.
The recent amendments include language that protects agencies with jurisdiction over projects from lawsuits; similar language was put in the Smart Growth Act last year. There is also language stating that agencies are not required to exceed their budget in order to accommodate complete streets features. As AARP’s Bill Ferris told the Times Union yesterday, “It will clearly put to bed the issue this is an unfunded mandate.” The key difference between this year and last year, when a complete streets bill was also amended towards the end of session, is that advocates for the bill were consulted throughout the process, making it a truly collaborative effort.
“I’m excited beyond belief,” Sandi Vega, who has advocated for the bill after her daughter was killed while walking to school last year, told Newsday. “It really means a lot to me. Undoubtedly, it’ll save lives, and that’s the whole purpose.”
The bill must “age” for 3 days before votes by the full Assembly and Senate can take place, leaving just enough time for votes to take place before the Senate goes home on Friday and the Assembly on Monday [Update: It appears both houses of the legislature will stay in session through next week.]. Tell state lawmakers to pass this bill by clicking here.