In recent years, residents and planners alike have come to better appreciate how much the design of our public roads affects safety, walkability, and the overall experience of moving from point A to point B. Roads have been traditionally laid out with the sole purpose of conveying the maximum number of cars, but it takes more than that to make a community livable, and facilitating additional mobility choices can actually reduce traffic congestion.

Good roadway design can also contribute to important public goals like flood mitigation and water quality. By using green infrastructure, such as vegetated swales and permeable surfaces, we can soak up and filter water than would otherwise find its way into our basements. What’s more, these sorts of features can serve as lower-cost alternatives to traditional grey infrastructure, like storm water and sewer lines.

All of these objectives are encompassed in the term “Sustainable Complete Streets,” and the Council has just approved legislation that applies Complete Street standards to major public and private road construction in New Rochelle. To be clear, we are not mandating changes in road design, but rather ensuring that sustainable design is considered and subjected to a cost-benefit test. A checklist of specific features will help engineers, planning board members and other decision-makers determine what elements are appropriate at what location. It will take time for the benefits to be felt, but over the long-term the positive effects could be significant.

Complete Streets were referenced in the City’s Sustainability Plan, GreeNR, and adoption of this legislation is one of many steps toward implementing that visionary document.