HOUGHTON – Houghton City Council gave pedestrians, cyclists and transit users an early Christmas present last night by passing a Complete Streets Ordinance, effective January 1, 2011. Houghton becomes the sixth Michigan city, and the first in the Upper Peninsula, to enact a Complete Streets ordinance. An additional 16 Michigan cities have passed resolutions supporting the use of Complete Streets design principles, giving Michigan more such policies than any other state.
The Houghton ordinance calls for transportation improvement projects which “…provide appropriate accommodation for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit users and motorists of all ages and abilities.” It further states that all street plans, including new roads and renovations, shall include such accommodations as sidewalks, curb ramps, bike lanes and signage to “…maximize walkable and bikeable streets wherever feasible.”
The ordinance also specifies that street projects should incorporate elements of Houghton’s bike and pedestrian plans and various state and national design criteria, in order to improve access and safety for all user groups. It also provides for certain exceptions, such as when “…the cost (of the transportation enhancement project) would be excessively disproportionate to the need for probable use.”
Prior to the vote, Houghton Mayor Robert Backon convened a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. Ray Sharp, a community health planner at Western U.P. Health Department, told the council that Complete Streets can improve a city’s livability, economy, health, safety and prospects for future state and federal transportation funding.
Houghton Bike Task Force chairperson Margot Hutchins thanked the council for their efforts to make Houghton more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. The council passed a Bike Friendly City resolution in April, and in September, Houghton was recognized by the League of American Cyclists as a bike-friendly city, one of just 158 nationwide.
The bike task force will now begin work on an Active Transportation Plan, a document which will include recommendations for transportation projects that reflect the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and people with disabilities.
Western U.P. Health Department works with local governments to enact policies that support healthy lifestyles and have the potential to reduce chronic disease. The agency and its local partners have received grants from Michigan Department of Community Health’s Building Healthy Communities program and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program to work toward community policies and infrastructure that encourage people to be physically active and make healthy food choices.
Scott MacInnes, Houghton City Manager
Ray Sharp, Western U.P. Health Department Manager of Community Planning