Legislation Headed to Governor’s Desk

In a move that will make transportation more accessible to all residents, the House and Senate today passed Complete Streets legislation (HB 6151 & HB 6152) sponsored by State Representatives Pam Byrnes (D-Lyndon Township) and Jon Switalski (D-Warren) to ensure that future transportation plans statewide take into consideration the needs of all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, seniors, people with disabilities and children. This plan is now set to be signed into law.

HB 6152 passed out of the Senate unanimously while 6151 was passed unanimously after an amendment was introduced upon the request of MDOT*. Later in the day the House then took up HB 6151 again for a vote of concurrence where it passed by a margin of 76 to 21. The proposed CRAM amendment to eliminate Michigan’s 32 year commitment to mandatory nonmotorized funding did not receive any legislative support due in part by efforts of Coalition partners such as the League of Michigan Bicyclists and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

“I’m very pleased with the Senate’s quick action on this legislation,” said Byrnes, Chair of the House Transportation Committee. “I was able to work across the aisle and across the dome to deliver a meaningful change for Washtenaw County and for Michigan. This legislation is good for the environment, good for the economy and promotes healthier lifestyles for our residents. It’s a win for everyone.”

Under this legislation, the Michigan Department of Transportation will be required to consider all users of our roads in all phases of road project planning, developing and constructing. The plan will also encourage local units of government to consider Complete Streets principles when updating their master plans. While Complete Streets accommodations may vary between communities, they include sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, accessible transit stops, frequent crossing opportunities and accessible pedestrian signs.  A statewide Complete Streets Advisory Council will also be formed under this legislation.

Complete Streets planning also presents an opportunity to increase the safety and availability of travel options for seniors – a need that will increase as the Baby Boomers age.

“Transportation planning is crucial to revitalizing our downtowns and creating the atmosphere to attract businesses, create jobs and keep our young people here in Michigan,” Switalski said. “Providing people with safe alternative travel options will lead to healthier lifestyles and give residents more ways to reach the small businesses that drive our economy. This Complete Streets legislation reflects the bipartisan effort it takes to build a brighter future for Michigan.”

In 2009, Michigan had the 9th highest rate of adult obesity in the nation, at 28.8 percent, and the 26th highest rate of overweight youths (ages 10 – 17) at 30.6 percent, according to a report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  If that trend continues, the prevalence of obesity will grow to 44 percent by 2018.

“The Senate’s approval of the Complete Streets legislation is a testament to the importance of creating walkable and bikeable communities where residents have the opportunity to lead healthy, active lifestyles,” said Mike Maisner, Legislative Committee Chair Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan.

Complete Streets have many benefits, including, increased property values, reduced risk of pedestrian-vehicle crashes and increased pedestrian traffic.

Detroit, Saline, East Lansing, Houghton, Marquette Charter Township, Flint, Linden, Ferndale, and Jackson are currently working on local Complete Streets policies.  More than 120 jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets policies nationwide, including nearly 35 communities in the past two years.

The Michigan Complete Streets Coalition would like to thank all advocates who have supported this initiative!

* MDOT Amendment:

Senator Gilbert offered the following amendments to House Bill No. 6151 (S-2):
1. Amend page 8, line 16, after “DUTIES.” by inserting “FAILURE TO COME TO AN AGREEMENT SHALL NOT PREVENT THE DEPARTMENT FROM SUBMITTING ITS MULTIYEAR CAPITAL PLA…N TO THE COMMISSION.”.

2. Amend page 12, line 3, after “PROCEEDINGS” by inserting a comma and “A STATEMENT OF INSTANCES IN WHICH THE DEPARTMENT AND A MUNICIPALITY WERE UNABLE TO AGREE UNDER SUBSECTION (3) ON A DEPARTMENT PROJECT AFFECTING A ROADWAY OR TRANSPORTATION FACILITY WITHIN OR UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE MUNICIPALITY,”.

The Department requested the above amendment to HB 6151 due to concerns over holding up funding for 5 year transportation plans if an agreement could not be reached between MDOT and a municipality regarding specific complete streets projects in that plan. Any projects without  an agreement will be pulled out of the 5 year plan and will be dealt with separately, probably with the Transportation Commission essentially becoming a mediator.  There is obviously still a bit of gray area regarding this amendment that the new Advisory Council, which has numerous Michigan Complete Street Coalition members on, will have to clarify down the line and in the actual drafting of the MDOT Complete Streets policy.  The advocates that were at the Capitol today came to consensus that the amendment was relatively benign as long as we clarify what happens to those projects that get pulled out of the 5 year plan.  In some cases it could actually help locals slow down a project if they felt like MDOT was pushing something forward that locals are not happy with.  At the same time, it could potentially also unnecessarily slow good projects as well.

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