Complete Streets Policy Adopted at USDOT

Date: Mar. 22nd, 2010
Contact: Bob McNamara Phone: 202-383-1268
The Obama administration has announced a major shift in transportation policy by officially embracing the concept of "complete streets" which accounts for the needs of all transportation users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, whenever transportation projects are planned. On March 16, 2010, Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation released formal guidance for state and city transportation departments, encouraging them to adopt their own complete streets policies that facilitate the "development of fully integrated active transportation networks." According to the USDOT announcement, "The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments."

NAR supports the complete streets approach because it contributes to safer, more livable and convenient communities where the mobility needs and preferences of all citizens are given equal consideration. NAR has joined two coalitions, the Complete Streets Coalition and the Transportation for America coalition in order to promote the concept to the Congress and the Obama administration. NAR sent letters of support for a Complete Streets bill introduced by Congresswoman Matsui and to Chairman Spratt of the House Budget Committee concerning hearings on the topic.

Impetus for this change stems from the administration's "livable communities initiative" in which HUD, USDOT and EPA have been coordinating efforts to produce an integrated approach to planning for housing, transportation and environmental protection. The underlying objectives of this initiative are to conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution, reduce reliance on foreign suppliers of oil, and produce jobs in a "clean energy economy." Complementary efforts are underway in the Congress, e.g., Senator Dodd's and Congressman Perlmutter's Livable Communities Acts, both of which NAR has endorsed.

Investments in infrastructure such as transportation facilities generally improve the value of real estate affected by the improvements. However, improvements which are narrowly focused on limited objectives, which ignore local context, create safety problems, or fail to address needs of others using the same space, can have a detrimental impact on abutting property values. In contrast, a Complete Streets policy encourages a comprehensive approach to transportation improvement planning and design that should result in better outcomes in terms of community livability generally and enhanced property values.

In order to ensure that the Complete Streets approach to transportation planning continues beyond the present administration, it will be necessary to incorporate the concept into the transportation authorization legislation that Congress is working on.