Complete Streets policy aims for safer roads for all travelers
By Barbara Taormina
Friday, January 20, 2017
Malden is hoping to tap a new Complete Streets state grant to improve city roads and make them safer for all users of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets is a new approach to designing and enhancing municipal roadways so that pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, commercial vehicles and buses can travel safely and comfortably throughout a
community. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, communities that adopt a Complete Streets policy stand to improve public safety and health, reduce emissions and traffic and create an environment that supports local businesses.
Mayor Gary Christenson signed Malden’s Complete Streets policy last October after more than a year of talks and reviews by city officials. And this week, the newly formed Complete Streets Task Force met to discuss the steps of putting the new policy to work.
Complete Streets Task Force Chairman D.J. Wilson, the Tobacco Control Director for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and Chris Murphy – coordinator of theMalden is Moving program outlined the goals of Complete Streets and the steps to access up to $400,000 in state funds to improve city roads.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) allocated $12.5 million for Complete Streets projects
through 2017 and plans to review the success of the program to determine future funding.
Wilson said the Complete Streets funding isn’t meant to replace Chapter 90 state funding for highway infrastructure, nor is expected to cover the cost of roadway construction projects. “The money is really to put those extras on at the end of a project,” said Wilson. “It’s meant to be the cherry on top of the sundae.”
But before Malden can take advantage of any Mass DOT funding, the city needs to develop a prioritization plan that lists the types of Complete Streets improvements the city wants to pursue. Task force members voted to hand that job over to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). “They’ll do the plan and pay for the plan,” said Murphy, adding that MAPC will hold community meetings to gather public input on types of street improvements residents
feel are most needed.
The prioritization plan will be followed up by a construction plan.
A broad range of projects are eligible for Complete Streets funding. Pavement markings that create separate lanes or areas for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles, speed humps, widening road shoulders, roundabouts, street lighting and new intersection traffic signals are some of the improvements meant to decrease or slow traffic and enhance safety. Designated bicycle lanes, bicycle parking fixtures and shelters and bike route signs are among a list of projects geared toward making streets better for bikes. New and wider sidewalks, ADA ramps, traffic islands, curb extensions that reduce street crossing distances,
flashing lights at intersections without signals, public plazas and pedestrian buffer zones are some of the projects that can improve streets for anyone travelling on foot. And transit shelters, park-n-ride facilities, transit-only lanes and transit signal prioritization are infrastructure projects aimed at bolstering public transportation.
Malden’s Complete Streets policy is meant to be a guide for the city as it moves forward planning, building and repairing roads. It does not obligate the city to spend money it doesn’t have or to make changes residents do not want. According to the policy, the goal is “to try to accommodate all road users, whenever reasonable and financially feasible, by creating a roadway network that meets the needs of individuals utilizing a variety of transportation modes.”