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WILMINGTON — A revised and approved version of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets policy aims to improve incorporation of multi-modal pathways — which keeps pedestrians and cyclists separate from motorized traffic — into future roadway projects.

“The goal is a policy that does a better job considering different forms of transportation as projects are being developed – and not just considered at the end of project development,” N.C. Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon told the N.C. Board of Transportation on Aug. 8.

Previously adopted in 2009, the NCDOT’s Complete Streets policy directs the department to “consider and incorporate several modes of transportation when building new projects or making improvements to existing infrastructure.”

“The benefits of this approach include: making it easier for travelers to get where they need to go; encouraging the use of alternative forms of transportation; building more sustainable communities; increasing connectivity between neighborhoods, streets and transit systems; and improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists,” the NCDOT’s website on Complete Streets states.

Safety, according to NCDOT board member and Blowing Rock resident Cullie Tarleton, is the main focus.

“We spend a lot of time at (NCDOT) talking about safety as we consider it a primary responsibility to provide safety to drivers on our streets and highways,” Tarleton said. “Almost everything we do has an overtone of safety. … That’s what this whole smart street idea was about, reducing accidents.”

According to the Aug. 8 presentation, the 2019 version identified what prevented the full implementation of the Complete Streets policy, although Tarleton said on paper, the changes seem minimal.

“The old policy was adopted in 2009; if you laid them side by side, you won’t see many too many differences,” said Tarleton. “There’s two primary differences. One has to do with recognizing changes in the mode of transportation over the last nine, 10 years. Bikers, scooters, walker, etc.” (The other) is that any exceptions to the complete road policy would previously go to the (NCDOT) deputy secretary, now goes on a case-by-case basis determined by a team.”

Goals of the 2019 Complete Streets policy are to “embed” the approach in project delivery, per the Aug. 8 board presentation, which will hope to add more accessible ways for non-motor-vehicle-based transportation. The previous process was criticised for not putting enough emphasis on multi-modal pathways.

“It served us very well for a very long period of time,” said Michael S. Fox, N.C. DOT board chair., on Aug. 8. “But it needed a little dusting off.”

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