TSTC to Cuomo: Complete Streets Save Lives

A map of New York-area pedestrian fatalities. Because so many people in the region walk, pedestrian safety measures can prevent a large number of deaths and injuries. Image: ##http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/map/#?latlng=40.840989,-73.66646300000002##Transportation for America##

Despite streets that remain far too dangerous for walking — 3,485 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes during the past decade in the New York metro area alone — efforts to pass a complete streets bill are still stalled in the state legislature.

The legislation, which would require all street projects that receive state and federal funding to accommodate the needs of everyone who uses the street, has passed the Senate Transportation Committee but hasn’t even been introduced in the Assembly yet. With less than a month left in the legislative session, a complete streets bill is going to need powerful supporters to clear the Albany gauntlet.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is urging complete streets supporters to go straight to the top: Governor Andrew Cuomo.

One of the most powerful letters to the governor comes from Sandy Vega. Vega’s daughter Brittany was killed last year while crossing Long Island’s Sunrise Highway, the second-deadliest road in the New York region. She wrote:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I need your help. New York State needs a Complete Streets law, now, and I am requesting your support and advocacy to make sure this bill is passed before the legislature goes home.

New York has some of the most dangerous roads in the nation, and it is time to stop the carnage. In the fall of 2010, my daughter, Brittany Vega, a 14-year-old walking to school on Long Island, was struck and killed by a car while crossing the road. This particular road, Sunrise Highway, is a 6-lane, arterial road that bisects the central business and residential areas of our hometown in Wantagh. With no count-down clock, there was no way Brittany could tell how long she had to get across. With no pedestrian island in the roadway, she had no safe refuge. She made a guess, and it cost her life.

Complete Streets design principles assure that when roads are built or redesigned, they take into account the needs of all users of the roads, not just cars. Simple changes in road design—such as count-down clocks, better crosswalks, protected bike lanes, and traffic calming devices—can dramatically reduce the number of fatalities on our roads. Complete Streets are safe streets: streets that encourage economic development and assure our seniors can stay in their homes and walk to services, and that our children can make it safely to school. Complete Streets are also environmental streets—providing people with transportation choices that can help to cut down on the congestion and smog that are impacting our health and climate.

Following your lead, in March, advocates for the bill met with those who were concerned that it was an “unfunded mandate.” Both sides were able to come to an agreement and shake hands over new language that everyone was comfortable with. That new bill has been introduced in the Senate, with bi-partisan support, and is moving. However, it is my understanding that the Assembly is waiting for comments from your office before moving the bill in the Assembly.

I urge you to support and find a way to help pass the State Complete Streets bill (S5411) so that our future roads take into account the needs of all users—including users like my daughter.


Sandi Vega

  • I just sent my own letter to both Gov Cuomo and my Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who sits on the Transpo Committee. But shouldn’t some of this plea be aimed at Assembly Chairman Gant? He controls what gets voted on, right? I know he’s no friend to safe streets and is impossible to work with… but shouldn’t lobbying be pushed in his face first?

  • Tom

    Might  this added local expense be viewed as an ‘unfunded mandate’.  After all, there is no provision for adding any revenues to pay for it, just the mandated inclusion of these new measures to be paid out of a finite allocation.
    I understand local governments are greatly opposed to such measures and are presently lobbying the State government for relief from similar existing measures.  Adding another to the list would not be viewed as welcome right now.  

  • Thanks for posting this, Noah, and thanks for your comments, folks.

    Tom, the umbrella groups representing local town and county highway superintendents both support the complete streets bill. (They had been worried about local expense in the past, but a language change was able to address their concerns without weakening the bill).

    Dave, thanks for your letters. As you say, Gantt isn’t easy to work with. After talking it over within our coalition and with our contacts in Albany we decided that it made more sense to have people e-mail the governor.

  • Tom

    Steven H : I just read your comment and the Newsday editorial urging the improvement of roads.  Newsday does confine its support to helping pedestrians.  Of course, Nassau & Suffolk is their audience.  It refers to current bills in Albany and Washington that move in that direction and never mentions directly the Complete Streets legislation.
    Perhaps I should have specified the support of locally-elected officials was crucial.  Has either body voted up-or-down on the bill?  Superintendents are good people but they don’t get to vote on state or local legislation, or have to raise taxes.

  • Just followed up my email with a phone call to Assemblywoman Millman’s office. She sits on Transpo Committee and so I hope she can help move things along. The person who took my call did say she had received over 60 calls in the past 2 days, pretty much all in favor. There a few weeks left in session so hopefully something can be done still… but we shoudl continue the call for more calls to each Assembly person’s Albany office.


NY Counties Oppose Complete Streets Bill Without Understanding It

Last year’s legislative session in Albany included a number of victories for supporters of smart growth and safer streets, including the passage of the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, Hayley and Diego’s Law, and bus lane camera enforcement for New York City. But the complete streets bill, which was passed by the State Senate […]

New York’s Walkable Streets Not Safe Enough For Everyone Who Walks

Compared to other American regions, the New York metro area is, by and large, a safe place to walk. Only two large metros, Boston and Cleveland, perform better on Transportation for America’s pedestrian danger index, as described in the new report, “Dangerous By Design,” which Tanya covered earlier today on Streetsblog Capitol Hill. The index […]

Long Island Towns Pursue Complete Streets Despite Assembly Stalling

New York State still lacks a complete streets law, despite the bill’s overwhelming passage through the State Senate and the support of the Assembly’s Transportation Committee. After a series of amendments in June, the Assembly bill now matches the stronger Senate version, but is stuck in the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Upper Manhattan […]

Complete Streets Bill Introduced in Senate

Earlier this week, 12 senators, led by Tom Harkin (D-IA), introduced the Complete Streets Act of 2011 (S.1056), a companion to the House bill we reported on a few weeks back. The purpose of the bills is to push states and metropolitan planning organizations to fully consider incorporating pedestrian and bicycle safety measures when roads […]