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A Push for Safe Streets with TX Pedestrian Deaths on Rise

PHOTO: Advocates say a "Complete Streets" policy improves safety, reduces traffic and has a positive impact on health. CREDIT: mrjorgen
PHOTO: Advocates say a "Complete Streets" policy improves safety, reduces traffic and has a positive impact on health. CREDIT: mrjorgen
January 23, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas - Another push is under way in the Texas Legislature to make sure future road projects in the state are safe for everyone, not just vehicles.

Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, who will carry the "Complete Streets" bill in the House, says it makes financial sense to encourage developers to consider all users before moving forward with roadwork.

"The cost of installing walking and biking infrastructure is much lower when it is constructed simultaneously with other roadway construction or expansion projects, not when we have to go back and retrofit."

During the last session, the Complete Streets proposal was turned back by lawmakers, but Brown says she's hoping for success this session since the bill has so many upsides.

"It's smart for taxpayers. It improves safety. It reduces traffic and it's good for health, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get it through the Legislature this year."

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who will sponsor the Complete Streets proposal in the Senate, says it make sense to ensure streets are safe and functional for all Texans, just like other states have done.

"Twenty-two states and Puerto Rico have adopted Complete Streets policies. Among those states are southern partners like Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina, and we ought to do it in Texas."

Texas recorded more than 400 pedestrian fatalities in Texas, up 17 percent from the year before. More bicyclists also were killed in Texas in 2011.

Dan Burden, a nationally known expert on complete streets, is to make a presentation to the Legislature today. He'll also meet with officials for the city of Austin, which is being honored by AARP as an "age-friendly" community. A Complete Streets policy is said to be especially important for those older Texans who want to remain independent and active, but have given up their car keys or aren't comfortable driving.

More information is online at smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX