Smart growth advocacy group troubled by DOT policy

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Sometime this month, the state Department of Transportation will submit a multi-year plan laying out $11.7 billion worth of projects, all receiving federal funds, for approval by federal agencies. The department's goal, according to a press release, is to have total approval by October 1.

But Empire State Future, a statewide smart growth advocacy group, has concerns with the plan. The organization's key objection is technical — or, put another way, wonky — and is explained by staff in this blog post. But in a nutshell, Empire State Future is concerned that a state DOT policy could prevent the construction of new sidewalks as part of state road reconstruction projects. And that would put the policy in conflict with the state's complete streets law, which requires planners to provide for safe use of roadways by pedestrians and cyclists, the organization says.

In the Rochester area, many if not most state roads already have sidewalks. And the state has been pretty good about making sure street reconstruction projects take cyclists and pedestrians into consideration. For example, the DOT's plans to rebuild Monroe Avenue between I-590 and Clover Street will include bike lanes or shared use lanes.

But a policy that prevents construction of new sidewalks, or any bike-pedestrian infrastructure, should raise red flags. That could lead to newly-developed areas that lack non-car connections, a situation that's not good for neighborhoods, the environment, or wallets.

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