Think of a street like a Rubik’s cube. Different colored squares could represent modes of transportation or streetscape elements. A side made of all blue squares would signify a car-only street. However, adding other colors would incorporate sidewalks, bus stops, trees, bike lanes and light fixtures. The end product is a multicolored cube, showing several transportation options in a safe space—i.e., the concept of a “Complete Street.”This type of holistic design mentality will be the emphasis of a regionally-focused symposium in Peoria on May 10, 2018. Until then, however, it is important to understand how Complete Streets can affect quality of life, shape policy and legislation, and even influence the regional economy.
Both the Illinois and U.S. Departments of Transportation have Complete Streets concepts on their radar. IDOT’s Ostdick and Maushard mention that “Illinois has Complete Streets legislation which requires that when improvements are made, all modes be considered a user of that facility.” Betsy Tracy, transportation planning specialist of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Illinois Division, explains that when it comes to transportation infrastructure changes, the federal government greatly emphasizes safety. That means Complete Streets elements such as clearer signage or decreased vehicle speeds could tie into FHWA’s performance measures, which highlight the reduction of injuries and fatalities. These performance measures, which are required to be tracked on a regional level, focus on both motorized and non-motorized transportation. Additionally, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, which produces periodically updated documents such as the Transportation Improvement Program and the Long-Range Transportation Plan, also must address how federally-funded projects, which could include Complete Streets measures, will benefit regional safety. Of course, as is the case for both IDOT and FHWA, “Everybody’s vying for a limited amount of funding,” Tracy says. “So it’s often about finding the money to be able to do a project.” When there are other transportation developments throughout the region, let alone statewide or nationwide, the difficulty comes in allocating money to those considered highest priority.