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Schatz, Begich Introduce Bill to Make Communities and Streets Safer

Legislation Will Improve Safety and Expand Access of Roads, Reduce Traffic Related Deaths and Injuries

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2014, legislation that will improve the safety of our nation’s roads and expand access for all users. With many roads today designed only for cars and busy traffic, communities across the country have pushed for safer, more livable, Complete Streets.  The Safe Streets Act will change the approach to the way federally funded roads are planned, designed, and built, ensuring new roads follow Complete Street policies, safely accommodating travelers of all ages and abilities, including drivers, transit passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Complete Street policies make sure that sidewalks, crosswalks, and safe transit access are taken into consideration as roadway plans are developed. Schatz and Begich's Safe Streets legislation will increase safe travel options, like walking and biking, and help save lives.

“Too many people are killed or injured each year because our streets are simply not designed and built with the safety of everyone -- including pedestrians and bicyclists -- in mind.  Our communities deserve safer streets,” Senator Schatz said. “Many of our roads in Hawai‘i and across America make travel difficult for seniors, families, youth, and others who are unable or choose not to drive.  Our legislation provides commonsense solutions to consider the needs of our seniors and children, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and make our roads and communities safer for everyone.”

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Safe Streets policies since I was mayor and continue to support them here in the Senate,” said Senator Begich. “These policies lead to safer roads, less traffic congestion, higher property values, and healthier families. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this common-sense bill to strengthen our transportation infrastructure and enhance the quality of life in our local communities.”

Over the last decade 47,000 pedestrians have died along our nation’s highways.  Two thirds of pedestrian deaths have occurred on federally funded roads. These roadways often lack complete street features like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle lanes, limiting access and creating a dangerous environment for travelers.  The Safe Streets Act will require all states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) to adopt complete street policies for federally funded projects within two years, and consider the safety of all users when designing new roads or improving existing roads. In addition, the Secretary of Transportation will provide resources to transportation agencies across the country with best practices for implementing complete streets principles for those states and MPOs. The Safe Streets Act of 2014 will ensure that effective practice and proven safety measures become federal guidelines, improving safety on our community streets.  Access to safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and other street features would reduce injuries and deaths, improve the quality of communities, ease traffic congestion, and allow for more healthy and active lifestyles.

“America’s streets should be safe and convenient for everyone, whether you are driving, riding a bike, walking or using transit,” said Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. “The Safe Streets Act is another sign that Congress is dedicated to making our nation’s streets safer and more open to everyone, regardless of age, ability, income, ethnicity or transportation choice.”

“Hawai‘i families deserve to have streets that are safe and easily accessible for everyone,” said Jesse Souki, Director of the Office of Planning for the State of Hawai‘i. “I applaud Senators Schatz and Begich for their work to improve our streets. Safe streets that accommodate various modes of transportation contribute to the health and happiness of Hawaii’s current and future generations.”

A bipartisan House version has been introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

The Safe Streets Act is supported by the following organizations: AARP; National Association of Realtors; Smart Growth America; Complete Streets Coalition; American Planning Association; American Public Transportation Association; Easter Seals; Safe Routes to School National Partnership; America Society of Landscape Architects; America Walks; and the League of American Bicyclists.