Iowa’s Senator Harkin Introduces “Complete Streets Act”

harkin.jpgOn Monday US Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa introduced "The Complete Streets Act of 2008," a bill "to promote the design of streets that are safe for all of those using the street — including motorists, bus riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians, including people with disabilities."

"Making our streets bike and pedestrian friendly is a win-win for us all," said Harkin. "It not only promotes healthier lifestyles, it lowers the amount of traffic congestion that many people deal with every day."

A recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that providing more travel options, including public transportation, bicycling and walking facilities, is an important element in reducing traffic congestion. The study reported that congestion was responsible for an annual $78.2 billion loss in fuel during traffic jams in 2005, an increase from $57.6 billion in 2000.

Also, as recently as 30 years ago, up to 70 percent of children were walking or riding bikes to school. Currently, the number has dropped to only 10 percent. Parents report that traffic safety is the main reason they do not permit their children to walk or bike to school. This legislation will make our environment more inviting for physical activity, especially for kids.

Though S.2686 would require states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations to adopt policies to ensure "that the safety and convenience of all users of the transportation system shall be accommodated," and though it calls for measurable performance standards, the bill includes Hummer-sized loopholes, such as exemptions in cases where the "cost of establishing complete facilities would be excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use." So while it may be an important symbolic gesture, it remains to be seen what tangible impact it would have if passed.

Upon introduction the Complete Streets Act had one co-sponsor, fellow Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.

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