By Kelsey Bridges
Complete Streets infrastructure requires committed investment into bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and vehicle lanes, as well as aesthetic improvements such as lights, benches, and trees. Funding these improvements may be difficult, so departments and organizations must work together in order to implement a unified vision that optimizes funds. One way to build this relationship is to create an alliance between planning commissions and those in control of capital improvements through Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs). Capital improvements are “major non-recurring physical expenditures such as land, buildings, public infrastructures and equipment.” Every city, town, or county has a capital improvements budget that can be utilized in implementing Complete Streets improvements.
Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs) are used to prioritize community planning and break up finances into phases for execution over many years. They are prepared with the annual budget and outline specific projects and the funding needs to implement them. When planning departments participate in the CIPs, they can guide investment into Complete Streets infrastructure. Often, since capital outlay for road improvements such as street repaving or sewer enhancements are already included in a CIP, they provide the perfect opportunity to install bike lanes, sidewalks, lighting, vegetation, and other Complete Streets infrastructure.
The New York City Department of Transportation’s capital streets project outlines a budget and timeline for major street reconstruction projects such as replacing water pipes and paving the roadway. Within these projects, they have categories such as traffic calming, Safe Routes to Schools, Safe Routes to Transit, and public plazas, amongst several other standard improvements. These categories are part of an effort to include transportation agendas into general maintenance work. Design manuals and guidelines are created and used so that they can be implemented in CIPs in the future as well. This unified attitude in the creation CIPs helps standardize the implementation of street improvements that create a safe space for all users.
NJDOT’s current Capital Investment Strategy spans from 2013-2022. Part of the plan includes updating train stations through NJ Transit, which will make traveling by train more accessible and comfortable for riders. An example of planners working on CIP is New Brunswick. NJ Transit is making repairs to the train station and Devco has invested heavily in TOD and improvements to Rutgers University. Over the past few years, Devco has worked with developers to add shops, housing, and offices around the station. Upcoming projects include “The Hub” at New Brunswick Station which will be a mixed-use building adjacent to the train station with 500-600 housing units in addition to office and retail space. In addition, one of the largest development’s in Rutgers history is the College Avenue Redevelopment initiative which will bring much needed student housing and academic facilities to the university. Not only will this project provide more space for the University, but in the process will improve New Brunswick intersection safety through upgrades in pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure. The partnership between Devco, New Brunswick, and Rutgers is an example of planning groups and other entities working together to address several issues at once.