Saturday, October 20, 2007

Complete Streets Bill Passes--Challenges IDOT To Think Different

Illinois has joined the Complete Streets movement through the adoption of SB 314. The law (pasted in below) provides that "bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full consideration in the planning and development of transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such ways into State plans and programs." Within one mile of an urban area, "bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be established in conjunction with the construction, reconstruction, or other change of any State transportation facility."

The new law is an effort to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and to increase the efficiency of the transportation system by better incorporating walking and biking with vehicular transport. It also challenges the deeply entrenched view in many transportation agencies that bicycles and pedestrians only get in the way of effective vehicular transportation, which they view as their only mission.

The devil thus will be in the details of implementing the new law. The law charges the Illinois Department of Transportation with developing design and construction standards for bicycle and pedestrian ways. IDOT, however, was presumably the moving force behind the Governor's amendatory veto of the bill. If IDOT does oppose the new law, will it be able to muster the creativity and open-mindedness to develop standards that will effectively integrate bicycles and pedestrians into our State transportation system?

Proponents of the complete streets bill such as the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation thus have their work cut out for them during IDOT's standards-setting process.

* * *
(605 ILCS 5/4-220 new)
Sec. 4-220. Bicycle and pedestrian ways.

(a) Bicycle and pedestrian ways shall be given full
consideration in the planning and development of
transportation facilities, including the incorporation of such
ways into State plans and programs.

(b) In or within one mile of an urban area, bicycle and
pedestrian ways shall be established in conjunction with the
construction, reconstruction, or other change of any State
transportation facility except:
(1) in pavement resurfacing projects that do not widen
the existing traveled way or do not provide stabilized
shoulders; or
(2) where approved by the Secretary of Transportation
based upon documented safety issues, excessive cost or
absence of need.

(c) Bicycle and pedestrian ways may be included in pavement
resurfacing projects when local support is evident or bicycling
and walking accommodations can be added within the overall
scope of the original roadwork.

(d) The Department shall establish design and construction
standards for bicycle and pedestrian ways. Beginning July 1,
2007, this Section shall apply to planning and training
purposes only. Beginning July 1, 2008, this Section shall apply
to construction projects.


HealthyCity said...

I think legislation like this is a fabulous step forward. And while I do think that bikes and pedestrian facilities DO get shorted in most transportation planning, if you think hard about this, the one mode of transport that really gets little mention are buses. There really is no one advocating for bus transit.

I can easily see the day when this legislation is used (yes, cynically by the road-planners) to turn-down proposals for bus facilities, such as Bus Rapid Transit, BECAUSE bike and pedestrian requirements will need to come first. The road-guys will still get their roads, while they'll peg the bikes against the buses.

So my point is: the title of the legislation "COMPLETE STREETS" is a complete misnomer if it doesn't include buses. Any thoughts?

Rick Powell said...

Contrary to the moderator's opinion, IDOT was neutral on the bill. Senator Risinger, a former IDOT District Engineer from Peoria, even voted in favor of the original bill and the override (presumably, he likely would have followed IDOT's recommendation if they were not neutral). There are many engineers and planners at IDOT, especially the younger employees, who have no problems with incorporation of bike/ped accommodation in state highway right of way.

As you correctly mention, the devil is in the details. There are accommodations that are low-cost and easy to implement, like widening the paved shoulder in rural areas, and then there are accommodations that require expensive bridges, additional right of way including building removals, and additional traffic signaling.

The issue of "who pays" for the measures that require above and beyond measures to provide the accommodation is a big one, but I expect that the current 50/50 split for elective sidewalk work will soon be changed to 90/10 IDOT/municipality except for the big ticket items.

Most IDOT projects in urban areas are already providing accommodation of some kind, especially through the new Context Sensitive Solutions process which IDOT personnel have received extensive training in. New highway projects almost always have accommodations, such as ISTHA's I-355 south extension which provided additional right of way and embankment for a new trail without charging the municipalities or the county for this amenity. (See The Prairie Parkway project will have similar accommodations.

The main challenge will be in urban areas where space is tight, or suburban areas where bike accommodations have been ignored for the most part by IDOT and municipality alike until recently.

Moderator said...


If IDOT wasn't behind the amendatory veto who was?

Do you know how IDOT will establish the required standards (e.g., through administrative rules or amendments to its standard specifications)? Who will be in charge of that process?

Rick Powell said...

You'd have to ask the governor's office about the veto.

The bicycle/ped policy was already under review before Complete Streets bill passed, and organizations including League of Illinois Bicyclists have been part of the review. The policy will be issued by the Central Bureau of Design & Environment, I expect as a design memorandum. There are already ADA-compliant sidewalk standards for pedestrians and lane widening standards for on-street bicycle accommodations; there are no clear multi-use path standards or warrants at this time, but several have been incorporated into projects during the last 20 years.

One of the big issues out there is whether to incorporate facilities for recreational bikers (who often prefer to ride on a separated path), experienced bikers (who often prefer to ride in traffic), or both.

edna welthorpe said...

Rick: Presumably the accomodations for peds are less controversial?

Rick Powell said...

They are less controversial because:

1. Any existing sidewalk disrupted by IDOT is replaced at IDOT's expense.
2. Any new sidewalk must be done to ADA standards; you need a really strong reason to get an exception.
3. Municipalities are offered the opportunity to add new sidewalk or replace existing sidewalk on IDOT projects at 50/50's a great deal for them. It'll be an even better deal at 90% IDOT/10% city if the new policy goes that way.
4. The only time it's tough to add elective sidewalk is when a bridge needs to be widened or right of way needs to be acquired to accommodate the sidewalk. These can get expensive; right of way in urban areas can be $20 a square foot or more, and bridge widening can be $100 a square foot or more. Current policy puts it 100% at the municipalities' expense. Of course, ITEP grants are available as a funding source for these type of situations.

Rick Powell said...

For your information, here are the current design standards:

site said...

To my mind every person have to read it.

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