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Moving Toward Safe Streets

Do you ever consider walking to a nearby store to pick up a few items but stop short because you fear for your safety? You’re not alone.

Louisiana is among the most dangerous states in the nation for pedestrians, ranking third out of the 50 states researched according to a recent report released by Transportation for America.

Between 2000 and 2009, 1,040 Louisianans were killed while walking. Nationwide, older Americans are nearly twice as likely to be killed while walking than those under 65. One of the biggest contributors to this crisis is the way streets are designed. An overwhelming proportion of pedestrian fatalities occur on roads designed for speeding traffic with little concern for pedestrians, lacking safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals.

But thankfully street design and planning is changing.

In a recent report issued by the National Complete Streets Coalition, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s (DOTD) Complete Streets policy was ranked second in a listing of nationwide Complete Streets policies.

Complete streets are streets designed to be safe for all users – motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users.

The new policy was developed in conjunction with AARP Louisiana to ensure a fully-integrated transportation system that safely accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. The policy principally effects new and reconstruction roadway projects, and includes sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle/pedestrians or multi-use paths, to be integrated into the project development process.

“AARP Louisiana applauds the leadership at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development in embracing policies that support Complete Streets concepts,” said Nancy McPherson, Senior State Director, AARP Louisiana. “Safe roads are essential to livable communities – places where people can thrive, stay connected and live with independence and choice. As Louisiana’s population ages, Complete Streets planning presents an opportunity to increase the safety and availability of older adults’ travel options. We look forward to continuing our work with DOTD in advancing this important work.”

“DOTD is proud to receive such a high ranking by the National Complete Streets Coalition,” said DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas. “We are committed to providing Louisiana residents with safe roadways that are accessible to all users. Through this policy, our agency will be able to provide a comprehensive, connected transportation network for Louisiana that balances access, mobility, healthy and safety needs of motorists, transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

The first project in which the complete streets policy will be used is the proposed widening of LA 42 in Ascension Parish from U.S. 61 to LA 44. In addition to widening a 3.2-mile section of LA 42 from two to four lanes, the project will include a 4-foot sidewalk on both sides of the roadway, a 4-foot sidewalk on the north side of the project and a 10-foot bicycle/pedestrian shared-use path to be constructed on the south side of the project. Bids are scheduled to be taken for the work in June 2012.

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