Baton Rouge on the road to "Complete Streets"

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit just wrapped up another successful three days of sessions at the Shaw Center. Local leaders and engaged citizens from cities and towns around Louisiana joined with national and international experts in community planning and growth to discuss smart solutions to common problems.

Of particular interest to Baton Rouge was a panel discussion by EBR Metro Council member Ronnie Edwards and New Orleans City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer. Palmer led the charge for implementing Complete Streets policy in the Crescent City.

Complete Streets as defined by the Center for Planning Excellence:

Complete Streets are streets designed with a variety of users and modes of transportation in mind, ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and disabled persons can safely use roadways alongside motorists. Complete Streets' policies ensure that planners and engineers are considering community members of all ages, abilities and incomes when designing street systems. Sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, medians, curb extensions, bus shelters and transit accessibility are all hallmarks of Complete Streets and can be implemented in a variety of combinations to fit an entire community's needs.

Complete Streets is successful in New Orleans thanks in part to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state funds. EBR Metro Council members are still looking for funding for Complete Streets projects in Baton Rouge, but the concept was already tested in April with a mock-up of a section of Government Street called Better Block BR.

Edwards said the Metro Council will take up the Complete Streets policy in the next 90 days.

"We've already endorsed Complete Streets as a philosophy. The policy will actually come back to us, be introduced, debated and hopefully acted upon and we'll be able to see the implementation of that," Edwards said. "We've been able to leverage resources to do some new and exciting things as it relates to crosswalks and adding bike lanes, to having multiple modes of transportation on our streets. And that's the ideal. We really want to be able to integrate those smart growth principles at every available opportunity when funding allows."

If approved and funded, sections of Government Street, Florida Street, Plank Road, Perkins Road and others could be redesigned to incorporate elements of Complete Streets policy.

"Y'all are doing so much, look how beautiful Downtown is. You have smart designs. We just need smart designs on our streets," Palmer said. "Anyone can do this, and to be able to touch so many people with good policy…that's what government is all about. We've been very successful in New Orleans with the legislation. We've seen how it works because we have all the FEMA dollars and we've seen how it effects the community in a really positive way."