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As a follow-up to the Action Alert we posted in late April regarding the Michigan budget process, we wanted to update our supporters on the finalized budget in regards to complete streets and public transit funding.

The House version of the budget ultimately reduced bus operating and bus capital by $20 million, however the final version that came out of conference committee restored funding for public transportation to current year levels. We are extremely pleased to see that the House and Senate came together to recognize the vital importance of funding public transportation in Michigan.

The complete streets boilerplate language did not fare so well, however. Unfortunately, while the Senate version of the budget included the complete streets boilerplate language, which gave Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding preference to communities with complete streets policies, the final version lacked such language.

The TE program is a competitive grant program that funds projects such as nonmotorized paths, streetscapes, and historic preservation of transportation facilities, that enhance Michigan’s intermodal transportation system and improve the quality of life for Michigan citizens.

The TE incentive language, which was successfully included in last year’s budget, helped encourage over 25 communities in Michigan to adopt complete streets resolutions and ordinances in the past year alone. We are extremely disappointed that this incentive language, which did not cost anything, was removed from the bill.

We are pleased to report, however, that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), who administers TE funding, has verbally indicated that they will continue to give TE priority to communities with complete streets ordinances and resolutions despite this language being stripped out of the budget bill.

Having received numerous inquires regarding the subject of TE priority going to communities with complete streets policies; we recently requested further clarification from MDOT about how they implement this preference. The Department has explained to us that basically all things being equal in the applications between two communities applying for TE dollars, a community that has shown a true commitment to complete streets would have the more competitive TE project.

This does beg the question of how often communities actually submit truly identical applications. MDOT went on to explain that a community with a competitive project, a complete streets resolution, policy, or ordinance, and a robust public input process that engages all users of the system will have a better chance to secure TE funding than a community that does not develop projects on a good complete streets foundation. “There is no guarantee of funds, but complete streets is good for the community and it improves your chances for a successful application,” said Amber Thelen, MDOT’s TE Program Manager.

MDOT’s Project Competitiveness Details document, available on the TE Program website, specifically references complete streets in two places under the heading “What other factors make a project competitive for TE funding?”:

  • project identified as a result of a community’s Complete Streets stakeholder involvement Process
  • projects supporting a community’s Complete Streets policy, or is part of a statewide initiative such as Cool Cities, Cities of Promise, the Safe Routes to School Program, Heritage Route or Scenic Byways Program

They stressed that regardless if a community has passed a resolution or ordinance, their primary concern is whether or not the community can demonstrate a true commitment to the principles of complete streets in how they approach transportation projects. In addition, MDOT encouraged communities with questions or who have a potential project idea, to contact a TE Grant Coordinator who are available to assist communities by providing more information on the program, guidance on competitive projects, and how to best develop a competitive application. Contact information is available, under the “Contact Us” heading.

We will continue to share further details on this topic as they become available.

We would again like to thank all of our supporters who contacted their legislator to ask them to protect transit funding and the complete streets boilerplate language.

Not only did the Michigan Legislature find the $84 million it needed for Fiscal Year  2011 to make sure Michigan doesn’t leave $475 million in federal road money on the table, but the state’s transportation budget, as adopted earlier this week, also includes language that gives funding preference to communities that have Complete Streets policies.  Section 321 reads:

In evaluating and awarding enhancement grants, the department shall give preference to applicants which have adopted complete streets policies. In addition, the department shall give preference to enhancement grant applications which further complete streets policy objectives. The department shall report to the house and senate appropriations subcommittees on transportation, and the house and senate fiscal agencies, on or before March 1, 2011, on the specific actions taken to comply with the intent of this section.

The budget also includes language that could help Michigan universities implement Complete Streets on campus roads which are considered private. Section 322 states:

Upon request of a university, the department shall work with representatives of state public universities to assist in the development and implementation of complete streets policies on university road and street systems.

The Coalition is extremely pleased to see this language included in the budget.  Giving funding preference to communities with Complete Streets policies is an excellent opportunity to encourage more local policies since the recent statewide law only effects the 8% of roads controlled by MDOT.

Download the transportation budget (PDF)

MDOT to provide assistance in developing policies

The 2010 budget process has finally come to an end.  The good news is complete streets language remain in the final transportation budget (Public Act 116 of 2009).

The complete streets section, however, was weakened into intent language,  meaning that MDOT and local road agencies are encouraged but not required to develop and adopt complete streets policies.  While we are disappointed that complete streets are still not yet mandatory, we are pleased to announce that language in this bill does state that “the department [MDOT] shall provide assistance to and coordinate with local road agencies and metropolitan planning organizations in developing complete street policies, including the development of model complete street policies.”

We are currently looking into who the proper contact is at MDOT to direct inquires regarding assistance with the development of complete streets policies.
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