— (Online Dictionary)
THE TERM “COMPLETE STREETS” is now in favor in the world of urban planners. It would be more appropriate to apply the term “Complete Fiasco” for the impact it will have on Cobb County taxpayers and drivers.
For fans of Complete Streets, a street is not considered complete until it includes features to accommodate all users, not just drivers in cars. This includes bicyclists, pedestrians, public transportation, the elderly and the disabled.
Local folks should be especially interested to know that the Complete Streets concept has fallen into the warm embrace of the Cobb County government, almost to the point of obsession. This is where the term “fiasco” comes into play.
Taxpayers and drivers should be alert to the rise and implementation of Complete Streets as you will be impacted in a negative way. Traffic flow will be compromised and your tax money will make it happen.
The following is a very brief summary of the evolution and status of Complete Streets in Cobb County:
• JANUARY 2009, Board of Commissioners Meeting (Copied from the Minutes): Motion by Olens, second by Ott, to adopt a policy regarding the Complete Streets concept, for improved safety and accessibility to Cobb County’s transportation system for all citizens. Copy of Complete Streets Policy attached and made a part of these minutes.
VOTE: ADOPTED unanimously (Olens, Ott, Lee, Goreham, W. Thompson)
Almost three years pass with no further mention of Complete Streets. Then …
• April 15, 2011, Johnson Ferry Corridor Urban Design: Complete Streets is included by reference in the Implementation Plan for the Johnson Ferry Road Urban Design project.
• Nov. 22, 2011, Work Session: Cobb DOT Director Faye DiMassimo and Community Development Director Rob Hosack make a joint presentation to commissioners regarding their intent to create a joint work team to develop an implementation plan for Cobb’s Complete Streets policy. DiMassimo says that implementation of Complete Streets will 1) bring Cobb into compliance with national standards, 2) not increase costs, 3) improve road safety. She is wrong on all three counts.
• Sept. 21, 2012, Revision Date, GDOT Design Manual. GDOT adds Complete Streets Design Policy to its Design Policy Manual. However, GDOT uses the Complete Streets title but drafts an original policy.
• January 2013, Comprehensive Plan Revisions: Complete Streets becomes part of the Cobb County Comprehensive Plan.
• August 2013, Cobb Contracts with Arcadis for Comprehensive Transportation Plan: Complete Streets is already baked into the new Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
• Peach Roads Program: Program awards points for use of Complete Streets principles.
CLEARLY, COMPLETE STREETS is highly regarded by Cobb government. So, what is Complete Streets and why is it so popular?
Complete Streets is a policy for governments to use in altering transportation infrastructure. It mandates a collection of design features that are to be included in road projects as standard. These features are directed primarily at adding bicycle and pedestrian facilities to all roads and streets at the discretion of DOT managers, not elected officials.
The Complete Streets policy is a product of the Complete Streets Coalition. This is a classic special interest group. Their purpose is to establish mandates in governments to build facilities for their use with taxpayer funding. The “coalition” is an assortment of bicycle groups with assistance from friendly lawmakers.
WHAT IS A “COMPLETE STREET”?
Examples of Complete Streets features include bike lanes, sidewalks, “road diets” (i.e., reducing four lanes to three, or lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet), restricting right turns on red lights, frequent crossing points in streets, crossing islands, curb ramps, curb extensions, and on and on.
Complete Streets comes to Cobb from the ARC as part of its Atlanta Region Bicycle and Pedestrian Walkways Plan, addressing the infrastructure and policy needs for the 13-county region. The ARC assumes that Cobb County cannot be trusted to make these decisions without guidance.
FOLLOWING THE COMPLETE STREETS PLAN will consume large amounts of public money that would otherwise go toward legitimate transportation investments. Traffic congestion will increase as bike riders interrupt normal traffic movement and as traffic rules are revised to favor bicycle operators. And, people will die. Collisions between cars that are minor fender benders will be fatal for bike riders. Drivers of cars will find their lives ruined by these accidents.
But, there is a hitch in the program. Read the actual text of the document Commissioners approved in 2009: “Cobb County will implement the Complete Streets concept by considering safe access for all users ...” The word “considering” does not make a policy. Someone played word games.
Nevertheless, Cobb DOT marches ahead, missing no opportunity to embed this flawed and unnecessary concept into policy documents.
But, the “adopted policy” isn’t really a policy at all. If Cobb leaders want Complete Streets to be official policy in Cobb County, the Commissioners should step up to their responsibilities and vote for a clear and unambiguous policy statement.
Taxpayers and drivers should hope they scrap the entire concept and send Complete Streets back to its sponsors at ARC.
Larry Savage of east Cobb is a retired business executive and ran unsuccessfully for commission chairman in 2012 and 2010.