New Milford council to consider complete streets law
NEW MILFORD — The Town Council conducted a public hearing Monday on a new law that, if enacted, would require town officials to consider pedestrians and bicyclists among other groups when planning road projects.
Enacting the ordinance, called a Complete Streets Law, would mean the viability and use of sidewalks, bike lanes or bus stops must be considered on major projects like repaving.
Several residents spoke in favor of the proposal, but no action was taken by council members.
“I think this is a wonderful idea,” said council member Katy Francis, “but I would like to see a master plan.”
Councilman Tom Esposito said the ordinance’s wording was vague. “I have questions on almost every line item here,” he said.
Although it doesn’t serve as a mandate, the local law would allocate some of the Public Works Department’s budget for “complete” projects.
“It’s just a general effort to encourage town leaders,” said Tom O’Brien, chairman of the town’s Bike and Trails Committee.
“It’s basically just a, ‘Don’t forget that people travel in different ways,’ ” he said. “When we do different projects, we need to consider all of their needs.”
O’Brien said several Connecticut towns have a similar law already. The new town law would conform to the state’s Complete Streets Policy, which was enacted in 2014.
O’Brien’s committee, the town planner and town engineer Daniel Stanton are behind the proposed law.
“We believe roadways should be designed and operated to provide safe and convenient access to all road users by providing equal opportunity to all modes of transportation,” Stanton said, in an email.
The law does stipulate some exemptions: If the cost of making a street complete is “disproportionate to the need or probable use” of a bike lane, for example, the project doesn’t need to include a bike lane.
“This ordinance provides a funding requirement with appropriate exemptions to improve New Milford streets and quality of life,” Stanton said.
“We already have a pedestrian-friendly downtown sidewalk network. Would we have the vibrant downtown businesses without sidewalks?”
The law would also reduce crashes involving more vulnerable road users, such as those on bikes or in wheelchairs, Stanton said.
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