Safe streets provisions in FAST Act represent a huge step forward in the effort to strengthen local communities

Late last night, Congress passed a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill—the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Notably, the bill requires all design for National Highway System roadways to take into account access for all modes of transportation. It also makes NACTO’s Urban Design Guide one of the standards for when the U.S. Department of Transportation designs roads, and it permits local governments to use their own adopted design guides if they are the lead project sponsor, even if it differs from state guidelines.

Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, issued the following statement in response:

“The FAST Act is the first federal transportation bill to ever include Complete Streets language, and that is a huge accomplishment.

Advocates working to give people better transportation options, improve public health, support retired Americans, advance economic development, reinvest in underserved communities, and keep people safe while biking and walking—as well as committed professionals in engineering, planning, and the private sectors—have spent over a decade working toward this goal.

Specifically, Senators Schatz, Heller, Franken, and Udall, as well as Representatives Titus, Curbelo, Joyce, and Matsui have been champions for this issue, and the Coalition commends them for taking a stand to keep people safe while walking, biking, taking transit, driving, and using assistive devices on America’s roads. On behalf of everyone working to end the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in this country, I thank these members of Congress and everyone who worked to include these provisions in the bill. We are grateful for your leadership.

The bill could have gone farther, of course. We hoped the bill would reflect language adopted by the Senate this summer, which required states and MPOs to use Complete Streets standards. As passed, the bill only encourages states to do so.

We also hoped the bill would include new performance measures on accessibility, and increased accountability or transparency for how public agencies select transportation projects. We were also disappointed to see the small but popular Transportation Alternatives Program—which helps states and communities build safe routes for biking or walking—have its funding capped. And we had also hoped to see greater control over transportation funding granted to local communities.

Overall, however, the new provisions in the FAST Act represents a great step forward in the effort to make streets across the country safer for everyone who uses them. We still have more to do, and I look forward to working with my fellow advocates and the committed members of Congress on this important work.

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