Complete Streets: Missouri policies named as among top in the nation

The National Complete Streets Coalition has released a major new analysis of Complete Streets policies across the U.S.--and policies from Missouri are among the top ranking of hundreds of policies evaluated.

Two Missouri Complete Streets policies--from Crystal City and Herculaneum--were listed among the top fifteen policies in the country.  Missouri was one of only two states with two policies listed among the top fifteen.

A rural Complete Street

Complete Streets policies are based on the idea that our streets and our cities need to work for everyone--people who drive, but also those who walk, bicycle, and use transit, the old and the young, the able bodied and those with disabilities.

Elements of an Ideal Complete Streets Policy
  • Includes a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets
  • Specifies that ‘all users’ includes pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.
  • Encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all modes.
  • Is understood by all agencies to cover all roads.
  • Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
  • Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval.
  • Directs the use of the latest and best design criteria and guidelines while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
  • Directs that complete streets solutions will complement the context of the community.
  • Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
  • Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy.

The number of Complete Streets policies in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past few years, from less than 10 in 2005 to over 200 today.

In Missouri, the number of Complete Streets policies has tripled in the past year.  14 agencies and municipalities currently have a policy.  

More than a million Missourians live in a community with a Complete Streets policy, and more than three million Missourians live under a Metropolitan Planning Organization with a Complete Streets poliy.

Missouri's policies among the best

The report singled out a number of Missouri policies as among the very best in their class. Among the top-ranking Complete Streets policies from Missouri (number in parentheses is the policies rank among all similar policies nationwide):

Complete Streets City Ordinance 

  • Crystal City, MO (1st, and one of the highest scoring of any policy of any type)
  • Herculaneum, MO (2nd)
  • DeSoto, MO (3rd)
  • Ferguson, MO (11th)
  • St. Louis, MO (12th)

Complete Streets City Resolution

  • Lee's Summit, MO (2nd)

Complete Streets City Policy Adopted by Elected Board

  • Festus, MO (3rd)

Complete Streets as part of a Metropolitan Planning Organization Plan

  • Mid-America Regional Council (3rd)
  • St Joseph Area Transportation Study Organization (4th)

Some of the longest-standing Complete Streets policies in the nation

It's not too surprising that Missouri's Complete Streets policies are among the top policies in the nation--because Missouri also has two of the oldest Complete Streets policies in the nation:

These policies, developed far earlier then the hundreds of policies were passed nationwide in the past few years--and the refinement and innovation that went along with that national effort--do not necessarily score well on the National Coalition's rating scale.  Still, they serve their communities well and have provided a foundation for these two communities that most Missouri cities lack.

And some of the newest

Some of Missouri's Complete Streets policies--like the recent city council resolution in Kansas City, Missouri, and policies in Pevely, Missouri, Elsberry, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, are too new for inclusion in this recent report.

All together, Missouri has 14 Complete Streets policies--one of the highest totals of any state.

How did this happen?

Making accommodation of bicycling and walking a routine part of every transportation plan and project has long been a goal of advocates in Missouri and across the nation.

Early in the 2000s, supporters in St. Joseph and the PedNet Coalition in Columbia were working to incorporate the idea that every street should be designed with bicycle and pedestrian users in mind.  

In 2003 the term Complete Streets was coined--giving a friendlier name to the concept previously known as "routine accommodation."

In 2005, MoBikeFed worked to mobilized support in Missouri for the congressional "Safe and Complete Streets Act" sponsored by Senator Harkin.  Unfortunately, this bill was defeated--and Missouri's Senator Kit Bond played a key role in the defeat.

Thanks to the work of advocates from across Missouri, including the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, the concept of routine accommodation was featured as one of the main goals Missouri's Trailmap for Nonmotorized Transportation, produced by MoDOT's Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee in 2007.  Unfortunately the Trailmap was never officially adopted by MoDOT, in part because of sweeping, forward-thinking recommendations like this one.

In 2007 MoBikeFed started working with Missouri Representative Mike Sutherland to introduce a Complete Streets bill in the Missouri General Assembly.  In 2008 the bill passed the Missouri House, but ran into a roadblock in the Senate, when MoDOT Director Pete Rahn sent a personal emissary to stop the bill. (Rahn later sent a letter explaining his actions.)

In 2008, MoBikeFed adopted a new Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri, with one ambitious goal calling for the adoption of Complete Streets policies statewide,  at least three metropolitan planning organizations, and in at least five Missouri cities adopting Complete Streets policies within five years.

With fourteen Complete Streets policies now on the books in Missouri, it is hard to believe how daunting and difficult--even impossible--those Complete Streets goals seemed just three years ago. But our goal is to change the world.  We aimed high and, thanks to an outpouring of support from organizations and individuals from across Missouri, we have reached even higher than our aim.

Complete Streets spreads across Missouri

With MoDOT's opposition to the Complete Streets bill, MoBikeFed stepped up the effort to reach out to community, health, business, housing, environmental, children's, elderly, outdoors, municipal, parks, disabilities, and other related groups.  The goal was to build a wide, broad-based, powerful coalition in support of Complete Streets in Missouri.

MoBikeFed representatives participate in the Transportation Committee of the Missouri Conservation and Environmental Alliance, which adopted Complete Streets as a policy goal, and the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (MoCAN), which adopted a similar legislative priority. 

MoCAN's support was particularly important in 2009, when the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services wrote a grant application to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, with input from MoBikeFed and other interested groups, which made Complete Streets one of the major policy objectives.  The led to the creation of the Missouri Livable Streets in 2010, which is organizing statewide training and the creation of technical materials in support of Complete Streets across Missouri.

In 2010, Missouri became one of 20 jurisdictions in the Safe Routes to School Partnership's State Network Project.  The Missouri Safe Routes to School Network adopted Complete Streets as its number one policy goal and assembled a strong Action Team to carry the policy initiative forward.  The Network has moved to support the initiatives of Missouri Livable Streets and most Action Team members participate on the Missouri Livable Streets Advisory Team.  

The Missouri Foundation for Bicycling and Walking operates the Missouri SRTS Network, and the SRTS Network funding has allowed the Foundation to spend more of its time and resources on Complete Streets efforts over the past year.

The state's health care foundations have started to take note of the importance of Complete Streets--and funding from organizations like the Missouri Foundation for Health and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City has played a key role in helping cities around the state move forward with Complete Streets policies and projects.

2010 & 2011--local groups put Complete Streets into action

The result of our statewide efforts to promote Complete Streets, the support of many different statewide organizations and agencies, and a well organized national movement has been an explosion of Complete Streets policies across Missouri in 2010 and 2011.

Spreading the word about best practices and positive Missouri policy examples has helped Missouri's policies become among the best in the U.S.


Trailnet has worked with a number of St. Louis communities to develop bicycle and pedestrian plans, some of which have included the adoption of Complete Streets policies. 

The Jefferson County Health Department has worked with funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health and technical support from the PedNet Coalition to work for the adoption of Complete Streets policies in a number of cities throughout the county.

Many other local efforts to promote Complete Streets have sprouted up across Missouri--like the grass roots effort in Lee's Summit, started by local health advocates, the Springfield STAR Team's work to include Complete Streets as an integral part of Springfield's strategic plan, work by groups in Cape Girardeau towards Complete Streets, and similar efforts in Kirksville, Boonville, Kansas City, Ozark, and many other places around Missouri.

What's missing?  What's next?

Here are some next steps for Missouri based on this report:

  • The biggest missing piece is a statewide Complete Streets policy. In Missouri, MoDOT would have to adopt such a policy.  According to the report, 23 states have such policies, including Missouri neighbors Illinois and Tennessee and nearby midwest states Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • Stand-alone Complete Streets Policies adopted by Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Regional Planning Commissions.  The report says: "To date, most Complete Streets policies at Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are included in their long-range plans. However, the effectiveness of such plans to inform and direct development of Complete Streets varies wildly between MPOs, not to mention the effectiveness in bringing localities into the vision. MPOs adopting stand-alone policies that apply to projects funded through their Transportation Improvement Plans tend to better meet our policy expectations and provide clarity on a day-to-day basis as projects move through concept, planning, design, and construction."
  • More city Complete Streets policies. One million Missourians live in cities or towns with a Complete Streets policy--but what about the other five million?
  • Complete Streets implementation. Cities that adopt policies find that top decision makers as well as public works staff and contractors have a long tradition of building roads and streets the old-fashioned way.  It takes training, knowledge, resolve, and public support to change long-established habits for new, more productive ones.

An urban Complete Street


This report gives Missourians a chance to stop and evaluate:  We've come a long way--from no Complete Streets policies ten years ago, to two policies five years ago, to 14 policies today.

A million Missourians live in cities with Complete Streets policies--but what about the other five million?

Three million Missourians live under metropolitan planning organizations with Complete Streets policies--but what about the other three million?

We still have a long way to go in making Missouri safe and inviting for bicycling and walking--but we are making significant progress.

We've come a long way and with your support, we'll make it the rest of the way soon!

For more information about Complete Streets in Missouri and to find sample policies for adoption in your community, visit the Missouri Complete Streets page.

One of the top goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri is encouraging Complete Streets policies at every level of government--local, county, region, state, and national.