Vermont's Complete Streets Law and What It Means to You
For two years dozens of Vermont organizations, led by AARP Vermont, advocated for a Complete Streets law in Vermont. The Governor signed Vermont’s Complete Streets bill (H.198, Act 34) into law, effective July 1, 2011. What does this mean for you? To some extent the answers are a work in progress.
The principle underlying the Complete Streets concept is that state and town streets, roads and highways should safely accommodate all transportation system users, regardless of age, ability, or what mode of transportation they prefer – walking, biking, driving, or use of transit. The purpose of the Complete Streets bill is to ensure that the needs of all transportation system users are considered in all state and municipally managed transportation projects and project phases, including planning, development, construction, and maintenance, except in the case of projects or project components involving unpaved highways. The policy applies when new roads are being constructed, and when paved roads are being reconstructed, rehabilitated, or otherwise maintained. (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT034.pdf )
Typical elements that make up a complete street include sidewalks, bicycle lanes (or wide, paved shoulders), shared-use paths, safe and accessible transit stops, and frequent and safe crossings for pedestrians, accessible pedestrian signals, and curb extensions. In rural areas examples could be the striping of shoulders on paved roads to accommodate bicyclists and others or the development of a separate multiuse path. Balancing safety and convenience for all users is the common denominator.
Note that the bill is not a mandate to retrofit existing roads. The bill identifies three circumstances in which these principles would not be incorporated:
1. Use of the transportation facility by pedestrians, bicyclists, or other users is prohibited by law.
2. The cost of incorporating complete streets principles is disproportionate to the need or probable use as determined by factors such as land use, current and projected user volumes, population density, crash data, historic and natural resource constraints, and maintenance requirements. The municipality shall consult local and regional plans in assessing these and any other relevant factors.
3. Incorporating “complete streets” principles is outside the scope of a project because of its very nature.
We understand the application of this statute will raise many questions! VTrans is having internal conversations about how they themselves will apply the provisions of the law, and we anticipate this will result in guidance for towns. If you have questions about the law and its application, please contact Matt Mann at WRC.