Complete Streets Bill Clears Senate Committee; Attention Turns to Gantt

Legislation to require transportation projects in New York state to include pedestrian and bicycle access was reported out of the Senate transportation committee Tuesday.

S5711, a.k.a. the Complete Streets Bill, would mandate that new and reconstructed public roads "accommodate all users," specifically pedestrians, cyclists and "individuals of all ages and mobility capabilities." Sponsored by Brooklyn Senator Martin Malave Dilan, the bill has broad support from a coalition of interests, including transportation advocates, public health groups, and AARP.

A 2008 report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that pedestrians aged 65 years and older in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are at much greater risk of being killed than their younger counterparts, and that the senior pedestrian fatality rate is higher in the tri-state region than in other parts of the country.

Bill Ferris, legislative representative for AARP, said getting complete streets legislation adopted this session is a priority for his organization. "We firmly believe our roads need to be designed for all users," Ferris told Streetsblog, "not just automobiles." Ferris is "very hopeful" that S5711 will be passed by the full Senate.

At the behest of bill supporters, the version that cleared the transportation committee included the addition of "sidewalks" to the definition of complete streets, and tightened previous exemptions. For example, the bill now specifies the grounds on which a town could deem the cost of a complete streets project "excessively disproportionate," explained Lindsey Lusher Shute of Transportation Alternatives. Senator Catharine Young, a Republican from Olean, voted against the bill, saying it would impose undue costs on rural localities.

As complete streets legislation moves to the floor of the Senate, there has been no action on its companion in the Assembly, where it sits in the committee of transportation chair David Gantt, who is also the sponsor. Said Ferris: "Our hope is that the Assembly will take notice of the movement in the Senate and start pushing their version of the bill shortly."

"We anxiously await Assembly Member Gantt’s introduction of the updated language in the Assembly and the coalition is ready to help bring his colleagues along," Shute said. "It would be an incredible victory to pass this legislation in a tough budget year, and a testament to the value of complete streets for the environment, public health and the economy."

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