Seven Massachusetts communities win “Complete Streets” Kudos
The Red Sox may have had a bad 2015, but Massachusetts scored big last year for adopting new “Complete Streets” policies. When Smart Growth America unveiled its national rankings today, seven Massachusetts communities were in the top 16.
Longmeadow (tied for 3rd), Weymouth (4th), Ashland, Natick and Norwell (all tied for 7th, and Lynn and Framingham (both tied for 9th) got raves in The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2015.
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Complete Streets is about breaking down the barriers between driving, transit, walking and biking. It is a different way of thinking—integrating the needs of people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of all our transportation networks.
So, it is very good news that so many Massachusetts communities made that commitment in 2015—and did it so thoughtfully. According to the Smart Growth America report, there were 82 jurisdictions nationally that made a similar commitment last year. Since 2005, when there were only 32 jurisdictions nationally with a “Complete Streets” policy, the number has grown to 843.
The Complete Streets movement has been gathering momentum nationally, with the Surgeon General in September 2015 and Congress in December 2015 promoting complete streets as the best way to think about mobility.
It is no accident that Massachusetts is beginning to score nationally—and catch up to states like New Jersey and Michigan. Starting in 2013, the Massachusetts Public Health Association led a statewide campaign that succeeded in getting a “Complete Streets” certification program into law (other key advocates included the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, MassBike and WalkBoston). Enactment of a “Complete Streets” policy is now a requirement for certain MassDOT funding and technical assistance.
As of February 2016, when MassDOT officially opened the $12.5 million program for this fiscal year, 30 communities had made the commitment. But developing a “Complete Streets” policy is not just checking a box—each community must decide how to integrate the different transportation modes given its particular conditions.
So kudos to the seven communities in Massachusetts who, in the words of Smart Growth America, developed “exceptional policy language” and can serve as national models.