In November, Mayor Mike Rawlings took a stroll down Bishop Avenue to inaugurate its status as a complete street, the term of art for roadways designed as much to welcome pedestrians, cyclists and small-scale retail as to accommodate cars. It was a consummation of sorts of the city's prolonged flirtation with the concept.
But if you thought the embrace of a generally hidebound bureaucracy like Dallas meant the whole complete-streets thing had jumped the shark, you'd have been wrong. It had only partially jumped the shark. Now, the Texas legislature could push it the rest of the way.
Yesterday, Irving state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown filed a bill that would require pretty much every roadway in Texas built or repaired using state or federal funds be made a "complete street."
Highways would be exempted from the requirement, as would little-traveled rural roads. Other than that, pretty much everything else would need to be made more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
What this will mean in practice depends on what exactly constitutes a "complete street," which Harper-Brown's bill doesn't attempt to define. That's left up to the Texas Transporation Commission, which would have until 2016 to consider various sources -- the Federal Highway Administration and a publication put out by the Institute of Tranposrtation Engineergs called "Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Contest Sensitive Approach," to name a couple. An official complete streets policy would follow.
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Harper-Brown told Public News Service that Texas needs to do better at accommodating bikes and pedestrians and that it's more cost effective to simply require needed changes while the road's already being built or repaired.
It didn't make enough sense for Harper-Brown's similar 2011 bill to pass the legislature, but she's hoping this time is different.
"It's smart for taxpayers. It improves safety. It reduces traffic and it's good for health," she said, "so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get it through the Legislature this year."
Seems reasonable enough. Then again, the Texas legislature has long been known as where reasonable goes to die.