Complete Streets: Transportation Infrastructure that Everyone Can Enjoy

By | 2018-02-12T15:55:50+00:00 February 12th, 2018|San Diego Planning Journal|

Complete Streets is about making sure our transportation systems are safe, useful, and attractive for everyone – pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists, transit users, and the movement of freight alike. For more than a decade, SANDAG has been working to make Complete Streets a reality in the San Diego region. By providing more efficient and seamless travel choices, Complete Streets can help to protect the environment, create healthy neighborhoods, and stimulate economic growth all while improving mobility to meet the needs of our communities.

SANDAG began incorporating Complete Streets principles into major planning efforts, such as Regional Transportation Plan updates, years ago. To make this multi-modal vision successful, it was important to encourage implementation at both the regional and local level. In 2004, SANDAG voters approved a 40-year extension of TransNet, a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. The TransNet sales tax extension supported complete streets in three important ways: First, it established a “routine accommodation” provision that requires all TransNet funded transportation projects to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians unless special circumstances make doing so unreasonable. Second, it specified funding for specific transportation projects, including a number of transit and rail projects, thus investing in infrastructure that would support the expansion of regional transportation options beyond driving. And third, it included dedicated long-term funding for two competitive grant programs, the Smart Growth Incentive Program and the Active Transportation Grant Program, that directly support the advancement of complete streets in San Diego County. These programs each receive two percent of the total TransNet revenues collected between 2008, when the ordinance went into effect, until 2048, when the ordinance expires.

Further strengthening the agency’s commitment to complete streets, in its most recent grant cycle, SANDAG added a new requirement stipulating that local jurisdictions must have an adopted Complete Streets Policy, as well as an adopted Climate Action Plan, in order to be eligible to receive grant funding for smart growth and active transportation projects. In addition, SANDAG is providing competitive grant funding from the smart growth program to help jurisdictions complete their complete streets policies and CAPs. At this time, about two thirds of the local jurisdictions in the San Diego region have an adopted complete streets policy, and the remainder of jurisdictions are well on their way toward completing and adopting complete streets policies.

To date, the Smart Growth Incentive Program and Active Transportation Grant Program have provided more than $50 million to over 100 projects, leveraging more than $34 million in local matching funds, for smart growth and active transportation projects across the region. The fourth funding cycle was released in December 2017, with $30 million available for this round of grants. More information on these grant programs can be found at sandag.org/cycle4grants, and examples of projects funded through previous cycles can be viewed on the TransNet Story Map. A few examples worth highlighting include:

Mission Avenue Improvement Project: The City of Oceanside received a capital smart growth grant to construct a multimodal renovation in its downtown business district. A four lane, two-way street was reduced to a two lane, one-way street with widened sidewalks, intersection bulb-outs, streetscape furniture, decorative street lights, reverse angle parking spaces, Class III bicycle improvements, and programmed space for public art.

Walk+Bike Chula Vista Education, Encouragement, and Awareness Campaign: The City of Chula Vista received an active transportation education, encouragement, and awareness grant to promote biking and walking through bike and pedestrian education events, a community walking group, and community bike rides throughout the City of Chula Vista. These educational events are meant to complement the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments that the City is making within its city boundaries.

East Village Green/ 14th Street Promenade Master Plan: The City of San Diego received a planning grant to develop a master plan which included the creation of a linear park and pedestrian- and bike-friendly path through the heart of Downtown San Diego’s East Village.

The SANDAG Board of Directors adopted a Regional Complete Streets Policy in December 2014 that requires the consideration of all modes of travel in the planning, design, and construction of all regional transportation projects. The Complete Streets Policy was then incorporated into San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan (SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy), where key actions include to continue seeking funding for transportation investments that provide a variety of choices, and which reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote healthy lifestyles through more active transportation; and continue to provide capital and planning grants to local jurisdictions to support smart growth, biking and walking, and seek additional funds to leverage existing grant programs.

A major milestone towards realizing the implementation of the Regional Complete Streets Policy was the recent development of a Regional Project Development Checklist and other resources posted on the SANDAG complete streets web page. The Checklist ensures that all projects implemented by SANDAG consider local mobility plans and accommodate the needs of all travel modes, including the movement of goods, to the extent appropriate.

Working with the local planning and public works directors from throughout the region, SANDAG also developed a Local Complete Streets Sample Checklist as a tool for jurisdictions to meet specific local agency goals as they plan for and build new transportation projects. A Regional Database and Mapping Tool has been developed to assist project managers in completing the checklist. The impacts of these procedural improvements will be tracked in the future as SANDAG works to develop a performance monitoring tool and produces performance reports tracking key metrics against baseline figures that are currently being established.

Recent funding opportunities and planning requirements under Senate Bill 1 will help to continue the implementation of complete streets in the San Diego region. Complete Streets directly support regional and state mobility, climate, and quality of life goals. As new technologies and transportation services become available, the ability of local, regional, state, and federal planners to work together in support of these principles will become all the more important. Next steps include producing visual simulations showcasing the intersection of advanced technologies and complete streets. SANDAG is committed to continuing its progress toward supporting a wide range of safe, multi-modal transportation choices that benefit all users of the transportation system in the San Diego region.