Complete Streets bill passes in St Louis County - 23rd Complete Street Policy in MO, first county, covers 1 million people

After months of debate and negotiations, last night the St. Louis County Council passed a Complete Streets bill.  Passage of the bill creates Missouri's 23rd Complete Streets policy.  St. Louis County--with a population of over one million--becomes the first county in Missouri to adopt a Complete Streets policy. 

A complete street in a city or town.  Building Complete Streets should be one of
A complete street in a city or town. Building Complete Streets should be one of the top uses of the new funding.

The advocacy work to support the creation of the county's Complete Streets policy was spearheaded by Trailnet, whose staff have done a masterful job of keeping the policy on track for passage over many months of discussion and negotiation in and out of the public eye. Trailnet's Ann Mack wrote an article this morning announcing passage of the Complete Streets bill and inviting supporters to sign the thank you letter to St. Louis County Council members.

In past years, comments by St. Louis County Highway Department officials, highlighting the Department's unwillingness to accommodate bicycling in road design, have received national media attention.  County highway officials have firmly resisted efforts to accommodate bicyclists for years.  Even though the County is the largest and most urbanized in the state, the County Highway Department has acted more like a that of a lightly populated county where cycling is a rarity--rather than what it actually: A densely populated urban area with many thousands of destinations within easy cycling distance and many thousands of citizens able and willing to bicycle more, if only the County provides a way to do it safely.

All this makes the passage of the County's Complete Streets policies one of the biggest turnarounds of the year--if not the decade--for bicycling and walking in Missouri.

Congratulations to the County Council, the County Planning and Highway Departments, cities within the county that pushed for change, citizen groups--including most prominently Trailnet, who coordinated support among local, state, and national groups--and the many ordinary citizens who contacted their Council members about this issue.

Long-term planning and advocacy made Complete Streets possible

The St. Louis County Complete Streets policy shows the importance of long-term, routine work in support of bicycling and walking--and how that type of mundane, everyday work can result in major policy change.

For example, Trailnet has been working with East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, MoDOT, and communities across the St. Louis metro area to create community bike and walk plans in over a dozen communities. When communities have developed their plans through extensive citizen, staff, and elected official input, and are working with community support to implement these plans, it creates a great deal of pressure for the County to adopt a similar outlook in its road design philosophy. 

Trailnet advocates for biking, walking, and active living in the St. Louis area
Trailnet advocates for biking, walking, and active living in the St. Louis area
In a similar vein, the Great Rivers Greenway District has been working to create a regional, interconnected network of trails and greenways.  Citizens then want to be able to connect to this network by walking and bicycling through their communities to the greenway trails, or by using greenway trails for part of a journey and city/county roads for the remainder.

And the founders of the Great Rivers Greenway District had the foresight to realize the importance of these on-street connections to complete and connect the greenway trails system.  So Great Rivers is able to use a portion of its funding to create local and regional on-street bicycle route plans and then implement the on-street connections.

All this creates a situation in which St. Louis County was rapidly becoming the last major holdout in a region that is rapidly becoming far more inviting and connected for bicycling, walking, and trails. Kudos must go to Trailnet and its allied citizen groups for helping to create this dynamic and then recognizing when the time was ripe to move forward with Complete Streets in St. Louis County, and helping to usher the new policy through months of complex negotiations involving many different parties and viewpoints. 

Great Rivers Greenway District funded work on the St. Louis Regional Bike Plan
Great Rivers Greenway District funded work on the St. Louis Regional Bike Plan

What is in the bill

Although final negotiations did weaken the bill somewhat--most importantly giving the County Highway Department greater power ot approve or reject any proposed elements on a particular project--the end result is still very powerful and follows many of the national best practices for Complete Streets policies.

Among the best practices the County will be following are:

  • Routine accommodation for all users on all road projects, as far as possible given budget and right-of-way limitations 
  • Full evaluation of needed elements in every project, and full documentation and discussion needed when elements are omitted
  • Staff and citizen committees to oversee and monitor progress
  • A requirement to follow national best practices in accommodating for bicycling and walking
  • Continual staff education about best design practices for Complete Streets

Although public debate focused on Complete Streets and bicycles, the new Complete Streets policy provide benefits to all citizens in the county--those who walk or bicycle, the old and the young, those who use transit, people with disabilities, and people who drive.  Designing our roads and streets to meet the needs of everyone helps build vibrant, active, health, and economically sustainable communities, and residents of St. Louis County will be seeing those benefits for years to come.

Where is Complete Streets in Missouri--and what's next?

Overall

The number of Complete Streets policies in Missouri has risen rapidly in recent years.  The total number of policies at city, county, metro, regional, and state levels:  

  • 2001 - 0 policies
  • 2009 - 5 policies
  • 2014 - 23 policies

Counties

St. Louis County is the first county in Missouri to adopt a Complete Streets policy.  But it's a great start: At one million residents, it is the state's largest county.

  • Currently: 1 county, 1 million residents
  • To go: 113 counties, 4.6 million residents
  • Most logical next steps: Jackson County, St. Charles County, Greene County, Clay County, Jefferson County, Boone County 
    A rural Complete Street.
    A rural Complete Street--and example of the type of roads rural counties could be building with Complete Streets policies in place.

Cities

Seventeen Missouri cities have adopted Complete Streets policies as well including all six of the state's six largest cities. Where we are:

  • Currently: 17 cities, 1.6 million residents
  • To go: 60 cities with population over 10,000; about 900 other cities; about 2.5 million residents (Total population of Missouri cities is about 4.1 million)
  • Most logical next steps:
    • The next largest cities that have not yet adopted Complete Streets policies, including O'Fallon, St. Charles, St. Peters, Florissant, Joplin, Chesterfield, Jefferson City, and Cape Girardeau.
    • A movement among smaller cities to adopt Complete Streets policies.  Smaller cities often have a lower barrier to passing a policy, and adopting a policy helps considerably when applying for grant funds and working with larger agencies (counties, RPCs, MoDOT) on road projects in and near the city.

Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Four Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Missouri have adopted Complete Streets policies, and another (Columbia area) is currently working to adopt a policy.

  • Currently: 4 MPOs, 3.2 million residents in Missouri (and another 1.5 million MPO residents in adjoining states); a fifth MPO has a policy in progress
  • To go: Four MPOs still do not have Complete Streets policies
  • Most logical next steps: All four remaining MPOs should adopt Complete Streets policies in the next year

Regional Planning Commissions

Missouri's nineteen Regional Planning Commissions cover rural areas of the state, including cities and towns in those areas. No RPC has adopted a Complete Streets Policy yet.

  • Currently: No RPC has adopted a Complete Streets policy
  • To go: Nineteen RPCs
  • Most logical next steps: One or two RPCs act as pilot projects, working out and adopting Complete Streets policies and procedures appropriate to their role and context.

Statewide

The Missouri General Assembly adopted a resolution in support of Complete Streets in 2011.  MoDOT has worked to gradually improve its bicycle and pedestrian policies and processes, taking a gradual step-by-step approach to working towards Complete Streets standards.

  • Currently: General Assembly has adopted a resolution in support of Complete Streets; MoDOT has recently updated and improved its bicycle and pedestrian policies
  • To go: Formal adoption of a statement and policies in support of Complete Streets policies by MoDOT leadership
  • Most logical next steps: MoDOT continues incremental improvement of its bicycle and pedestrian policies in its policies, training, and long-range planning.  Any new MoDOT funding allows for funding of needed bike/ped projects and accommodations on MoDOT roads.

The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation support the excellent work that local and regional advocacy groups, like St. Louis-based Trailnet, do in MIssouri. Your support of Trailnet helps make positive change like Complete Streets happen in the St. Louis region.

MoBikeFed support groups like Trailnet around Missouri--and hopes that you will, too--because creating a unified statewide movement in support of better bicycling and walking is among of the primary goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.  Another of our primary objectives is developing a world-class bicycle and pedestrian network--and work like that done by Trailnet on the St. Louis County Complete Streets plan is what moves that objective forward. You can find sample Complete Streets policies and links to the information you need to move a Complete Streets policy forward in your own community on our Missouri Complete Streets page.And--your membership and support for MoBikeFed helps make our statewide vision a reality, and helps bring Complete Streets policies to more communities across Missouri. Right now your membership or donation to MoBikeFed will be DOUBLED by a group of 38 generous donors.

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