Inclusive roads way of future

A growing action coalition wants streets complete with mass transit, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

by Jennifer Bissell

Historically, it had been said that the streets of America were paved with gold. If this were the case today, Yogi Berra would have made an excellent economic-recovery plan when he said, âÄúWhen you come to a fork in the road, take it.âÄù Unfortunately, things arenâÄôt that easy. Yet, it does seem that part of the economic renewal of America really could be in its roads. This week, Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked first in the nation for pedestrian safety in a study done by Transportation For America, a national organization working to synergize âÄúnational, state and local transportation policiesâÄù with climate change, economic development and other issues. The study, Dangerous by Design, aims to solve the âÄúepidemic of preventable pedestrian deaths.âÄù Minneapolis estimates that more than 92 percent of its streets have sidewalks on both sides in addition to 83 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails and more than 100 pedestrian/bicycle bridges. Yet, the city also notes that they are far from perfect. In 2007 there were 35 pedestrian deaths. Minnesota Complete Streets, a growing transportation action coalition, advises that the further integration of balanced modes of transportation is the solution. This involves an increase in bike lanes, transit options and better walkways for pedestrians. Additionally, the plan would allow Minnesota to continue to lead the nation in transportation efficiency. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, increasing bicycling from 1 percent to 1.5 percent of all trips in the United States would save 462 million gallons of gasoline each year, and transit options have already saved the United States 1.4 billion gallons of fuel annually. According to a current draft report by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the 2010 legislation proposed by Minnesota Complete Streets is a viable option for the state. While there is a projected shortfall of $50 billion over the next 20 years in transportation costs, the Minnesota Department of TransportationâÄôs report assures us that âÄúWhile cost is always a consideration, it is not an excuse to not implement Complete Streets.âÄù With cost-effective, comprehensive planning in the initial stages of road construction and the consideration of local needs in specified areas, the benefits will, undoubtedly, outweigh the cost. Jobs would be created. Crash rates would decrease. Water, air and noise pollution would all be reduced. A needed shift to non-motorized transportation and transit would occur, and ultimately, safety would be promoted for convenient travel and access for all users. Today, people should want integration in their roads. It should no longer be all about making roads bigger to fit as many cars as possible, such as the apparent Interstate 35W construction south of the city, but about variety. When we provide alternative modes of transportation, such as the new Northstar Commuter Rail line, traffic is reduced and bigger roadways are not necessary. Streets can be public spaces. With the implementation of Complete Streets, imagine what could come next. Plazas and town squares could be full of people and vendors exchanging ideas and greeting one another with their Minnesota-nice hellos. The street wouldnâÄôt be something we simply drove through, but the destination itself. Now that would be truly golden. Jennifer Bissell welcomes comments at [email protected]