How Peoria made its transportation planning and funding process far more bicycle and pedestrian friendly

In 2007, the Peoria, Illinois, region adopted a new and ambitious plan to change how the region funds its transportation and how it funds its roads, highways, and other transportation projects.

The result, according to John Chambers of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, has been a very dramatic increase in the quality of projects that have been submitted and approved--a dramatic increase, specifically, in how bicycle and pedestrian friendly these projects are.

Complete Streets
Complete Streets

In the article below, which was printed in the Winter 2007 newsletter of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, Chambers explains the changes they made and the reasons for doing so.

Missouri communities, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and Regional Planning Commissions: Here is your call to action!

If Peoria can do it, any place can--certainly any place in Missouri!

Peoria Area Incentive for Pedestrian and Bike-friendly Road Designs

By John Chambers, Planner, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission

Bicyclists and other non-motorized users of our roads often ask how they can influence transportation policy and make safer places for those traveling without an engine.

One way is by working with your area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

An MPO guides the distribution of federal transportation dollars to individual towns and other road-building agencies in an urbanized area.  There are fourteen MPO’s in Illinois.  Each conducts long-range transportation planning, identifies local project priorities, and develops policy and criteria on how federal Surface Transportation Program – Urban (STPU) funding is to be spent at the local level.  Usually, these policies have resulted in STPU-funded projects that emphasize motorized users. 

By working with your local MPO to include walking and biking in the rating criteria used to evaluate local road project proposals, projects are more likely to be constructed as “complete streets”.

For instance, in December 2006 the Peoria-Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study (PPUATS) adopted a new policy and quantitative criteria for evaluating project funding requests.  PPUATS, consulting with the LIB and other bicycle groups, incorporated bicyclist and pedestrian access into the STPU quantitative criteria.  Out of a possible 100 points, the new criteria award up to 10 points to pedestrian and bicyclist facilities.

Pedestrian Access (6 points maximum):

  • Sidewalks on both sides – 4 points
  • Sidewalk on one side – 2 points
  • Right-of-way preservation (flattened) – 1 point
  • Pedestrian-activated signals & crosswalks – 1 bonus point
  • Median- and corner-refuge islands – 1 bonus point

Bicyclist Access (4 points maximum):

  • Multi-use separated side path on at least one side – 4 points
  • On-road, marked bicycle lanes on both sides – 4 points
  • Paved shoulders w/minimum 3-feet clearance from rumble strips – 4 points
  • 14-foot wide curb lanes – 2 points
  • Right-of-way preservation (flattened) – 1 point

Now, if a town wants STPU dollars for its road project, it has a better chance of winning funding if the proposed design is bike and pedestrian-friendly.

With this policy, PPUATS has formally recognized that integrating non-motorized users’ needs into transportation policy is necessary and beneficial to a healthy urbanized transportation system.  Through on-going dialogue, cooperation, and effort by the MPO, local cycling groups, and the LIB, the Peoria region was able to reach a positive consensus on this issue.  By working with your local MPO, you may be able to do the same in your area.

MIssouri Examples

Note that the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC, Kansas City region) adopted a "Complete Streets Policy" in their recently adopted long-range plan, which changed project scoring and prioritization in a very similar way to Peoria.  It is too soon to say for certain how successful the MARC Complete Streets effort will be, but so far it has also resulted in a very great improvement in the amount and quality of bicycle and pedestrian elements included in proposed road and highway projects.

Springfield, too, is incorporating Complete Streets concepts into their municipal and regional planning.  The Ozarks Transportation Organization (OTO, Springfield area) has incorporated Complete Streets into its 2035 Long Range Plan. Springfield city's Strategic Plan, currently close to formal adoption, has also incorporated Complete Streets principles in a very deep and thoroughgoing way.

Many communities and planning organizations across Missouri are adopting Complete Streets policies--over one million Missourians now live in a city with a Complete Streets policy, and over three million live under a regional planning organization with a Complete Streets policy.

Peoria's example is a really good one for showing how such a policy can be implemented well and how it can really change for the better the way projects are selected and public money is spent.

Thanks to Ed Barsotti of the League of Illinois Bicyclists for bring our attention to, and being willing to share, the article above.

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