What do Complete Streets Involve?Complete Streets are designed with all users in mind, regardless of ability or age. A Complete Streets policy ensures that engineers and transportation planners consistently design the streets with this in mind. No two streets are the same; the street features and design are determined by context, road function, speed of traffic, topography, demands of people walking and bicycling among other things. Based on context, common features of Complete Streets include:
- Paved shoulders
- Bike lanes
- Bus stop access
- Sidewalk "bump-outs" at intersections
- Safe crossing points
- Accessible curb ramps
- Pedestrian refuge medians
- Access to adjacent trails in a "corridor"
Complete Streets is not about costly retrofitting of streets but rather about working during the planning process of street updates or upgrades in order to be more cost-effective.
What Is The Heart of New Ulm Project Doing for Complete Streets?
In September 2012, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation received a two-year Small Communities Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase the number of Brown County residents who have access to safe walkable and bikeable routes. Receipt of the grant allowed the Heart of New Ulm Project to begin working on making improvements to the built (physical) environment to increase safety for people who walk or bike, incorporating complete street concepts. In October 2012, the project brought Mark Fenton, a national public health, planning, and transportation consultant and Kelly Morphy, the executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, to New Ulm to provide information on the many community benefits gained through the implementation of Complete Streets strategies. Several individuals participated in a driving tour of New Ulm with Fenton and Morphy to identify assets and areas of improvement in traffic flow and safety for people who walk and bicycle in our community. New Ulm-specific examples were used in the enthusiastic and compelling presentation of the benefits a community can gain from implementing Complete Streets strategies that Fenton gave to city leaders and Brown County Commissioners.
A walk audit around the New Ulm Recreation Center and the New Ulm elementary and high school followed the presentation involving 15 participants. A walk audit is a redesign and visioning tool used to help participants understand how various relatively inexpensive changes to the streetscape can improve safety for the people driving, walking or bicycling. One example involved having the participants form a human curb bump out as a traffic calming measure in the school drop-off zone. This opportunity gave the participants a better understanding of managing traffic flow while improving safety.
The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute used the information collected on the driving tour, interviews and walk audit to create a report on recommendations for New Ulm to improve safety for all users. The report identified specific areas that would benefit from relatively low-cost traffic calming measures to long-term structural changes to improve safety.
The Coalition for Active, Safe and Healthy Streets (CASHS) was formed to prioritize the recommendations identified in the report and develop a plan for implementation. The following actions teams were developed to work specifically on the areas identified in the report:
Safe Routes to School – improve the school arrival and departure process
Downtown – tasked with revitalizing the downtown area and increasing social connections
New Ulm Bike Group – creating designated bike routes throughout the city that connect to the circular bike trail around New Ulm.
Redesign Garden Street – narrow the driving lane to slow vehicular speeds, add bike lanes and add a mid-block crossing between the recreation center and the schools.
Accomplishments to date
During the resurfacing of Garden Street in the summer of 2014 between South Payne and South Eight Street the driving lanes were narrowed, parking was removed on one side, bike lanes were added in each direction and an enhanced pedestrian crossing was added with a refuge island to increase safety for children walking or bicycling to school.
In July 2014, the Region Nine Development Commission began planning for the Safe Routes to School in New Ulm after receiving a federal technical assistance grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
With the help of the New Ulm Bike Group, new signs are being posted to designate the Bike Circular Route that uses streets around the city and connects to the paved bike trail to complete the circular route. Low-volume traffic streets have been identified for the connections throughout the city to businesses, the medical center, the schools, parks and the Bike Circular Route.
The CASHS coalition continues to meet regularly to discuss the progress of ongoing projects as well as future projects. The coalition is also crafting language that will be used for a Complete Streets Policy and presented to the City Council for approval and implementation.