The Metro Council is set to take a vote in the coming weeks on adoption of a new policy called Complete Streets that would apply to all roadway construction in the city-parish going forward. The item will be introduced at Wednesday’s meeting, with a public hearing and vote set to take place at the next following regular meeting on Nov. 25.
Complete Streets aims to help improve capacity and efficiency of the city-parish’s road network, increase transit options and reduce congestion and emissions. The policy would mandate that all new road construction and improvements adhere to a rough code that requires projects to be designed with not just cars in mind, but also pedestrians, bikes, public transportation, emergency responders and delivery vehicles, with special attention paid to needs of the disabled and elderly.
Across the U.S., more than 500 regional and local municipalities have adopted a Complete Streets policy, and 27 states—including Louisiana—have also implemented a policy. New Orleans became the first city in the state to adopt a Complete Streets policy in 2011.
If the policy wins approval here, two committees would be established, according to a Complete Streets vision and policy statement released by the city-parish. A technical committee made up of city-parish planning officials would review current policies, take inventory of pedestrian and biking infrastructure and prioritize a list of projects. The committee would create metrics to evaluate the projects.
A 13-member advisory committee would also be established, made up of special interest advocacy groups, academics and citizens-at-large; it would oversee and approve the technical committee’s actions. Members of this committee would include representatives from, among others, the Planning Commission, Bike BR, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, AARP, the Center for Planning Excellence, LSU and Southern University.
Other cities that have implemented a Complete Streets policy have seen little to no uptick in their overall transportation budgets, city-parish officials say. According to the policy statement, EBR would rely on bond programs, public-private partnerships, ongoing maintenance resources, and federal, state and local funding to pay for any change in expenses.
And officials say communities that have invested in a Complete Streets policy have seen a number of benefits beyond better traffic conditions, including more private investment, increased property values, improved access to public transit, improved air quality and reduced public health costs.
Though the Complete Streets idea has faced some criticism that cars and bikes in separate lanes could actually make biking more dangerous when drivers cross the biking lane to turn, the city-parish’s policy statement maintains that biking will be safer under the Complete Streets policy. See the Complete Streets vision and policy statement.
The Metro Council convenes at 4 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. See the full council agenda. —Kelly Connelly