A relatively new term, Complete Streets refers to what is, in essence, well thought-out infrastructure design. A Complete Street project takes a balanced approach to maximize the space available for as many user groups as possible. As we continue to see an increase in interest in this approach for North Texas municipalities, we’d like to share the basics and benefits of Complete Streets with those for whom the term may be new.
What are Complete Streets?
The Complete Street approach encompasses many different facilities and systems, designed to enable safe right-of-way access for all. Planners and engineers consider the needs and safety of drivers, transit users, pedestrians, bicyclists and utilities. These projects may include:
- Bike lanes
- Bus lanes
- Public transportation stops
- Accessible pedestrian signals
- Curb extensions
- Modified vehicle travel lanes
- Utility improvements
With any number of these systems in place, the community sees more choices for their modes of transportation, as well as their route. All communities can benefit from this approach; each project is unique and caters to that community’s specific needs.
Planning and Design
Although for civil engineers, the technical knowledge required for a Complete Street is no different from any other roadway construction project, the planning and design can look a bit different. You will see increased involvement by the city’s planning department, and potentially the parks department as well for landscape elements or connectivity to the parks system. In the planning phase of a Complete Streets project, the team will identify the balance between cars and other modes of transportation, determining how much space should be allotted for each group and utility.
For a project with this approach, it is important for all members of the design and planning team to have a high level of communication and coordination skills. When you begin to add extensive sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit stops, streetscapes, and more to a simple roadway construction project, the need for a civil engineer who can coordinate effectively with the rest of the team becomes crucial to the success of the project.
Complete Streets bring a wealth of benefits to the communities they serve.
- Safety: dedicated areas for pedestrians and bicyclists within the right-of-way show a decrease in the number of traffic-related accidents for these groups.
- Mobility: with more options for modes of transportation, Complete Streets provide improved access to jobs, healthcare, education, groceries, and more.
- Climate: by making it easier, safer, and more enjoyable for people to travel by foot, bicycle, or public transportation, there can be a reduction in air pollution from gas-burning vehicles. Complete Streets also lend themselves to “green infrastructure”, a low-impact approach to water management that can include elements such as stormwater gardens.
- Health: bike lanes and improved pedestrian facilities promote physical activity.
- Equity: increased mobility provides opportunities for transportation to older adults and low-income citizens who may not have access to a vehicle.
Complete Streets in North Texas
Largely based on zoning, several local municipalities have formal Complete Streets policies in place. Examples can be seen all over the metroplex; in North Richland Hills they have tied their bike trail system into roadways by integrating bike lanes. In our ongoing reconstruction project of North Riverside Drive in Fort Worth, the design incorporates a 10-foot wide hike and bike trail. Many town center areas also fall under the umbrella of Complete Streets, such our past work on the Villages at Colleyville and Northlake Town Center.
Want to learn more about Complete Streets and what this approach could do for your city’s next right-of-way project? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.