House OKs 'complete streets' bill

Thursday April 21, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- The Vermont House on Tuesday afternoon passed a bill designed to integral the state's transportation policy.

Advocates said the measure will ensure all users of the Vermont transportation system are considered and accommodated in the planning, development and construction phases of any state or locally managed project. The exception is projects involving unpaved highways or routine preventative maintenance.

Known as "complete streets," the legislation improves safety and access for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

"The bill asks that all users of the transportation system are concerned in all state and local transportation projects. It just means on the front-end of planning for a new project, that you consider pedestrians and perhaps add a sidewalk now instead of a costly retrofit later," said Rep. Mollie Burke, a Progressive/Democrat from Brattleboro and the bill's lead sponsor. "It really is about accommodation."

Complete streets policies call for transportation agencies and municipalities design and operate the right of ways to enable safe access for all users.

AARP Vermont has led a lobbying and media campaign to push the legislation. The group has made direct contact with lawmakers in Montpelier since January for complete streets as a statewide policy for planning roadways that encourage walking and biking.

"A lot of people are moving in this direction already. There's a greater awareness, that we do need to be thinking of bicyclists and pedestrians and older drivers, so I think it's catching the wave of stuff that's already coming down the pike," said AARP associate state director Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur. "What the bill really does is asks that when work is being done on roads or new roads are being built, that the safety and accessibility of all users be considered in the planning process. So what we hope will happen as a result of that, we're going to see the planners and engineers taking a look at the roadway from a more [complete] manner."

The legislation initially came before the House Transportation Committee last year, but it stalled because of the original language in the bill. AARP worked to make it more acceptable for lawmakers and won support from the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Supporters are optimistic the complete streets legislation will pass through the 30-member Vermont Senate, but are nervous it will not make it on the calendar before the end of the session.

"We're feeling pretty confident, they have expressed a lot of interest in the Senate transportation [committee], basically we're just waiting now for some time on their schedule so they can take it up," Wallace-Brodeur said.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.


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