By Claire Walla
According to Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Tom Neely, Southampton Town could use a good update. More specifically, it could use Complete Streets.
Following a presentation he gave to Southampton Town Board last March on a project called “Sustainable Complete Streets,” Neely met with town board members again last Friday, June 3 as the leader of a Complete Streets task force involving town employees Freda Eisenberg and David Wilcox from the department of land management; John LaRosa from engineering; Ross Baldwin of graphic information systems; and Alex Gregor and Bob Welch of the highway department. Neely presented the board with a more comprehensive update on the overall plan.
Complete Streets is a movement that has taken hold in towns and cities across the nation and Canada, which calls for city planners to take environmental and sustainability issues into account when working to improve roads and byways. Most prominently, these changes come in the way of added bike lanes and sidewalks to improve conditions for those who want to commute sans auto.
Part of the effort to promote alternative modes of transportation can be achieved with existing town regulations and procedures, Neely said For example, road maintenance and improvement projects can incorporate Complete Streets ideas — creating bike lanes or adding signage for shared use lanes — during routine maintenance. The task force will also pay attention to the town’s plans to build sidewalks, making sure that the walkways being built are the most convenient for foot traffic.
“You basically want to work from the hamlet centers, or the villages, outwards,” Neely said. “In other words, [you want to improve those places] where people are going to want to be walking or biking.”
Overall, the task force identified three main areas where the town could immediately start to take Complete Street principals into consideration: site plan regulations, road and drainage standards and subdivision standards.
Now, the task force is hoping to be recognized by the board as a formal committee, which Neely said would give the movement more permanence.
“By going to a more formal committee, it’s saying, ‘this is something that’s going to continue to meet for the next 50 years,’” Neely added.
In the meantime, he said the task force will work with town departments in the months leading up to budget season to make space in their budgets to put some Complete Streets tasks into practice.
While the task force is currently charged with the job of overseeing these improvements and making sure all branches of town hall are going through with construction plans with these environmentally sound ideals in mind, ultimately Neely hopes the board will adopt a “Sustainable Complete Streets Policy.”
That would essentially require town departments to adhere to Complete Streets principals.
“It should be standard operating practice,” Neely noted. “Everyone has to be involved for it to work.”
The board has yet to adopt any resolutions regarding the implementation of such a policy, but Neely said when he introduced the idea “the heads were nodding.”
He continued, “Everyone seems to think we’re headed in the right direction.”