Issue Brief: Complete Streets

The Issue

ASLA supports legislation that encourages designing transportation corridors to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.

Background & Analysis

The Complete Streets movement is growing in momentum, with over 900 state and local Complete Streets policies adopted throughout the nation. A national Complete Streets policy would ensure that all our nation’s rights-of-way are safe for all users. Complete Streets policies promote the creation of more walkable and public transportation-oriented communities, thereby improving pedestrian safety, encouraging healthy and active lifestyles, helping improve air quality, and helping to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Representatives Doris Matsui (CA) and David Joyce (OH), have introduced the Safe Streets Act, (H.R. 2071) which would require that the safety, interests, and convenience of all users be considered in the design and construction of federally-funded transportation projects. This legislation would call on states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to establish a Complete Streets policy for federal transportation projects that is flexible enough to accommodate all types of projects in all locations across the country. Exemptions would be available where costs would be too prohibitive, for highways and other roads where pedestrians are not allowed, or where population, employment density, and transit service is so low that the expected users would not include pedestrians, bicyclists, or public transit users. This legislation would also call on the Secretary of Transportation to provide research, technical guidance, and data collection to assist states and MPOs in developing and implementing Complete Streets policies and projects.  Under the bill, the Secretary would work with the American Society of Landscape Architects, along with other allied organizations, in developing this technical assistance and guidance.


In the 112th and 113th Congress, Complete Streets legislation was introduced in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.  However, both legislative sessions expired before adoption of the bills were completed.

In the 112th Congress, during Senate Commerce Committee consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a Complete Streets amendment was adopted and included in the Senate-passed version of the MAP-21 bill.   However, during the House/Senate Conference Committee negotiations, the Complete Streets language was removed from the final version of MAP-21 that was signed into law.

Current Status

H.R. 2017 was introduced on April 28, 2015, and was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

After many years of sustained advocacy efforts by ASLA and allied active transportation organizations, the U.S. Congress passed and President Obama signed into law on December 4, 2015, the first federal transportation bill to ever include Complete Streets language. Sections 1404 and 1442 of  the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act:

Requires the Secretary of Transportation to encourage states and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt road design standards that take into account pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, as well as motor vehicles, through all phases of planning, development, and operation.

Directs the Secretary to report on state progress toward implementation and to identify best practices in the states.

Requires state transportation departments to take into account access for all users and modes of transportation when designing and building National Highway System roadways. This requirement is a significant step forward, in that all designs and design alternatives need to take into account all potential users of the roadways.

Requires the use of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)’s Urban Street Design Guide as one of the standards that U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) consider when developing design standards, and it permits local governments to use their own adopted design guides if they are the lead project sponsor and the direct recipient of the federal funds for the project—even if it differs from state standards.

The Complete Streets provisions in the FAST Act represent a great step forward in the effort to design safer streets for everyone who uses them. 


Rep. Doris Matsui (CA), Rep. David Joyce (OH) and co-sponsors. 


H.R. 2017, The Safe Streets Act
Reps. Matsui and Joyce Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Create Safe Streets for All Users
National Complete Streets Coalition
Dangerous By Design 2014
Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, March 2015
U.S. DOT Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets
The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014
List of State and local Complete Streets policies
Planning Complete Streets for An Aging America
Transportation for America's Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boomer Generation
FixingAmerica’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act  

Related ASLA Policies

Transportation Corridors and Facilities
Livable Communities
Urban Growth and Development
Universal Design 


ASLA Government Affairs