The second House Transportation Committee hearing on Complete Streets legislation, HB 6151 and 6152, saw the room once again packed with supporters of the policies. The legislation - which seeks to move Michigan away from auto-centric road designs and meet the needs of all roadway users - has attracted strong support from a broad range of advocates. A few of the groups represented at today’s hearing included: The American Heart Association, Crim Fitness Foundation and Citizens for a Safe Community.
The coalition would like to extend thanks to all those who spoke at the meeting today, as well to those that offered written testimony. Chairwoman Byrnes (D – Dist. 52) indicated she plans to hold a vote on the bills next week, and with some organizations like SEMCOG and MML still supporting the bill in concept only, it is important that the committee members continue to hear vocal support for these specific policies.
John Lindenmayer, Associate director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, was the first to testify and took the opportunity to present the committee members with a letter signed by the owners of 25 Michigan bike shops, while also reiterating the numerous ways in which complete streets would benefit communities. Lindenmayer also fielded the first of several questions about funding for the policy from Rep. Geiss (R – Dist. 88). Rep. Switalski (D – Dist. 25), who sponsored the bill, jumped in to help address these concerns and reminded the committee members that “language in the bill gives an exemption for excessive costs,” and added, “It doesn’t cost anything to think differently and to plan differently.” Rep. Switalski’s comments are supported by the House Fiscal Agency’s Legislative Analysis of the bills which states, “To the extent that Complete Streets planning requirements can be incorporated into current planning processes, the additional costs may be marginal and potentially minimal.”
Next the committee heard testimony from Lansing City Councilwoman Jessica Yorko, who was a leader in the drive that passed Lansing’s complete street ordinance last year, and Andy Kilpatrick, who is a Transportation Engineer with the City of Lansing. Yorko presented the view that streets need to be considered as places, saying “they’re not just thruways, but parts of our communities.” She also pointed out that one of the reasons why it is important to move beyond local ordinances is to remove ambiguity about whether or not the organizations that are responsible for state trunk-lines will cooperate with local non-motorized plans. Kilpatrick, who is trained as a civil engineer and has experience implementing Lansing’s complete streets policies, pointed out that complete streets really offer a different approach, that is not one size fits all, and that treats the public right of ways as being for everyone.
Norm Cox of the American Society of Landscape Architects used his testimony to state that this legislation is “working to make amends for the lopsided transportation investments of the last 50-60 years,” adding, “it’s not taking money away, but redistributing it based on changing priorities.”
Groups like SEMCOG and MML are still working with the Coalition to address specific concerns, but as of yet are reluctant to move beyond “support in concept.” Bob Morris, representing SEMCOG, did note that each draft of the bill has looked better, and all of the opposing groups acknowledged the importance of the policies for Michigan’s communities, but still seemed reticent to support them. Rep. Switalski characterized the opposition from MDOT and CRAM as “a grasp at the status quo by a car centric planning community.”
The meeting wrapped up on a positive note, with several more supportive voices offering testimony. Written testimony in support of the bills was also submitted by the Michigan Association of Planning, Michigan Land Use Institute, Washtenaw County Public Health, PEAC, Gould Engineering, Peckham, Inc, the Disability Network of Michigan, Mid-MIchigan Active Transportation Coalition and the Mayors of Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Individuals Richard Williams, Lyndon Babcock, PHD and Casey Dutmer also provided testimony supporting HB 6151 and 6152.
Chairwoman Byrnes stated that she would like to see the committee vote on the bills next week. If your representative sits on the Transportation Committee, let them know that you support these bills in more than just concept, and encourage them to vote for their passage. That hearing is scheduled to take place at 10:30 am, Thursday, June 17, at the House Anderson Office Building in Lansing.