Armonk NY Homes | ‘Complete Streets’ Could Make Roads Safer, But at a Price – Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch

A bill awaiting the governor’s signature would require any road project that receives state and federal funding to take into consideration safety and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists and mass transit.

Supporters say the measure will make roads safer and help curb traffic and pollution, but some local officials are calling it yet another unfunded mandate.

Known as “complete streets,” the principles involved have been in use across the country for years and include bike lanes, sidewalks, medians and signs urging drivers to share the road.

Supporters — mainly environmental groups — have pushed for a statewide law in New York for the last few years, but were met with resistance from local governments who said the measure would make projects unaffordable and pull resources away from vital improvements to existing roads and bridges.

The bill was amended this year in a few small, but key, ways; instead of applying to any project that is eligible for state and federal funding, the law would pertain only to those projects that actually receive the money. Language was also added that shields municipalities from being sued for non-compliance and exempts small projects, such as road paving, as well as projects whose budgets would be blown by the requirement. The law also recognizes that complete streets additions aren’t always practical.

After the changes were made, a number of statewide groups, including the state Association of Counties and Association of Town Highway Superintendents, signaled their support. But some officials still aren’t happy.

“Our budget is so low that we don’t even usually consider this stuff,” said Kevin Palmer, the highway superintendent in the town of Southeast. “We’re putting Band-Aids on everything right now as it is.”

But supporters, including Eastchester Environmental Committee Chairman Peter McCartt, say fiscal constraints are all the more reason to have the law in place because a holistic approach is cheaper than implementing complete streets principles piecemeal.

“In the days of limited budgets it’s very important to take this on as a complete program,” McCartt said. “Some people don’t walk or ride bikes because it’s unsafe; if we get more people biking and walking, it’s much healthier for everyone.”

McCartt also said the issue is most acute in Westchester, “a mature community,” where there’s generally little empty space to widen roads.

“We have to be very creative, and [the complete streets law] is a tremendous benefit,” he said.

Other advocates, including Rockland County Board of Legislators Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, say pedestrian safety is particularly important for senior citizens. Cornell was not available for comment, but she recently pointed to an AARP report that showed seniors are far more likely to be fatally injured while walking than the general population.

According to the report, between 2007 and 2009 16 pedestrians over the age of 60 were killed in Westchester. There were two fatalities in Putnam and one in Rockland.

“The presence of safe streets, intersections and sidewalks are a key element in the development of livable communities — not only as a means to keep our senior population in our communities, but to provide safe and healthful travel choices for everyone,” Cornell said while pushing for the bill’s passage last year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office does not comment on pending bills, but his administration worked with the advocates to amend the bill earlier this year and he is expected to sign it.

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