Environment Picture

Complete Streets signed into law!

Measure gives state, local governments new tools to design roads as catalysts for commerce and community
For 60 years, Michigan’s roads have been designed with little else in mind besides the automobile. Today, many in Michigan realize we can and should do better to incorporate the needs of all other road users. Doing so means safer streets, increasingly walkable and bikeable central cities, and more vibrant business districts.

With the recent signing into law of HBs 6151 and 6152 (which taken together represent both the planning and funding aspects of a Complete Streets policy), Michigan is poised to again build roads that take into account the needs and safety of more than just automobiles.

This policy encourages planners to design streets as if they were places. It increases the safety of all roadway users, while also creating more desirable, livable, family-friendly communities that attract more tourists, promote healthier lifestyles, and create an incentive for young professionals to not only remain in the state, but to move here.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Aug. 1.

The Complete Streets bills require the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop a Complete Streets policy and create a “model” policy for municipalities and counties to follow. Local road agencies or municipalities are not required to develop their own Complete Streets policies.

State Rep. John Switalski said this version of the bill gives “cities, and locals more say when dealing with transportation policy.” The final bill also creates an advisory council to facilitate coordination between stakeholders and advise MDOT on the adoption of Complete Streets policies.

At least 20 Michigan communities have adopted their own local complete streets ordinances or non-motorized plans. The Michigan Complete Streets Coalition included 65 diverse groups, businesses and individuals who supported the adoption of the policies. Such a large coalition was designed to help ensure cooperation between those who build the streets and those who use them.

The broad range of interests represented in the coalition is reflective of the multitude of benefits that Complete Streets offer. The coalition’s partners include health and fitness groups who recognize the positive impact that Complete Streets have on public health as a result of more inviting, walkable and bikeable downtowns.

Complete Streets is also a way to revitalize Michigan’s economy as communities become more desirable places to live and people are attracted to downtown merchants. The mayors of Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Ypsilanti all cited the economic benefits of complete streets in their letters of support.

Complete Streets policies in Michigan are also supported by several groups representing the transit community and are strongly linked to a package of Transit Oriented Development bills being considered by the legislature.

As Michigan attempts to regenerate its economy with an eye toward the future, building desirable places and communities is key.

“This is an important step toward creating places where people want to live, work and play rather than just speed through in a vehicle,” said Michigan Environmental Council Deputy Policy Director Tim Fischer. “It is about rebuilding our roadways to move people, rather than just cars.”
-Jeremy Rapp
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