The proposed sales tax measure Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) for Sacramento County has 20 occurences of the term ‘complete streets’. The first is this phrase: “complete streets with or without capacity expansion”. This alone should make everyone uncomfortable – the sponsors are perfectly happy with expanding roadway capacity so long as all modes are accommodated in some way. The roadway could be 20 lanes wide, and that would be fine so long as there is some facility for walking and bicycling. Within the ‘Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements’ section, Citrus Heights lists 15 possible projects, and within the ‘Local Projects of Regional Significance’ section no projects. The table below shows the complete streets summary (note that Isleton is an insignificant portion of the measure and is not listed). Only County of Sacramento specifically calls out that 15 of the projects will include road capacity expansion, but many of the other projects in all of the locations might also include expansion.
In the lead implementation section, paragraph H, ‘complete streets’ are sort of defined:
Complete Streets. Transportation projects provide opportunities to improve safety, access, and mobility for all users of streets, roads, and highways in Sacramento County and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian, vehicle, and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system. The term “Complete Streets” describes a comprehensive, integrated transportation network with roadways designed and operated to enable safe and convenient travel for users of all abilities, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, seniors, children, movers of commercial goods, operators of public transportation, public transportation users, and emergency responders, in a balanced manner that is compatible with an urban, suburban, or rural context.Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets
Sounds OK, but it is so vague as to allow practically anything, based on the preference and judgement of city or county. No reference is made to state or federal definitions or guidelines.
The TEP does require the cities and counties to adopt a ‘complete streets’ policy. So far as I’m able to determine, only the City of Sacramento has a policy at this time. That is good. But again, no guidelines as to what a good policy would address. No reference to the National Complete Streets Coalition model, or state or federal guidelines. All of the General Plans address complete streets to some degree. It is not clear whether these existing aspirations constitute a policy.
Within one year following the implementation of this Measure, each local jurisdiction in Sacramento County receiving Measure funds shall adopt or maintain an existing “complete streets” policy or a similar document that incorporates design guidelines and standards promoting safe and convenient travel for all users including bicyclists and pedestrians when considering any construction, reconstruction, retrofit, or alteration of streets, roads, highways, bridges, and other elements of the transportation system.Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets
And lastly, the TEP says that projects should be consistent with policy. But again, the language is vague. What does consistency mean? Always, or only when it doesn’t impact traffic flow? No performance measures for the jurisdictions to achieve, or against which to judge their success.
Planning and design of projects affecting the transportation system shall be consistent with any local bicycle, pedestrian, transit, multimodal, and other relevant plans and/or the local complete streets policy to ensure that all transportation types and users are considered in the expenditure of Measure funds.Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets
So, does use of ‘complete streets’ and identifying projects as complete streets mean anything. No, not really. It is up to each transportation department to determine for themselves whether the project is complete streets, and what it would have to do to ensure that.
Even if the project does produce a ‘complete street’, it still won’t address frequent safe crossings of the corridor for walkers, nor the need to significantly reduce motor vehicles speeds to create comfortable walking and bicycling streets.
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