Complete Streets

What are Complete Streets?

"Complete Streets are streets for everyone."

Complete Streets Concept DrawingA Complete Street describes a public right of way that provides safe and accessible options for people of all ages and abilities and all modes of travel, including walking, bicycling, driving, and public transit. A network of Complete Streets expands travel choices by making it easy for people to cross the road, walk to school, bicycle to work, or hop on and off buses and trains. Complete Streets are designed with all users in mind, and they make non-motorized transportation more convenient, more attractive, and safer.

What does a Complete Street look like?

Complete Streets are context sensitive. They have no fixed design because each right of way is different in place and purpose. A Complete Street in an urban area will look very different from a Complete Street in a rural area. What matters is that the elements of each street reflect the needs of the people who use it, regardless of age, ability, or mode of travel.

Complete Streets elements can be realized on a large sale (e.g., intersection improvements) or can be more narrowly focused (e.g., adding a single bicycle lane or crosswalk). The MassDOT Highway Division identifies the following as examples of Complete Streets infrastructure:

  • ADA/AAB-accessible curb ramps
  • Audible pedestrian signals
  • Bicycle parking facilities
  • Bus pull-out areas
  • Curb extensions
  • Designated bicycle lanes
  • Detectable warning surfaces
  • High-visibility crosswalks
  • Intersection signalization
  • Medians and pedestrian crossing islands
  • Pedestrian hybrid beacons
  • Radar feedback ("Your Speed") signage
  • Road diets
  • Roundabouts
  • Signal prioritization
  • Shared lanes and shared-use paths
  • Street lighting
  • Street trees and furniture
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Transit-only lanes
  • Transit shelters
  • Sidewalks
  • Speed tables and raised crosswalks
  • Wayfinding signage

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Why Complete Streets?

Complete Streets help create livable communities for various types of users, including children, people with disabilities, and older adults. Complete Streets improve equity, safety, choice and public health, while reducing transportation costs and improving connectivity.

Where are Complete Streets being built locally?

Map of Complete Streets towns in MassachusettsIn 2006, the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway), which was succeeded by the MassDOT Highway Division, became one of the first transportation agencies in the country to clearly realize the need to consider all users - including modes of travel and ability, as well as to consider the context of a project when building and renovating streets, parks, sidewalks, and parking lots statewide. At that time, MassDOT developed its award winning Project Development & Design Guide.

In support of Complete Streets, and in response to the establishment of M.G.L. Chapter 90I, as well as the Governor's Healthy Transportation Policy Directive of 2014, the MassDOT in working with the MA Department of Public Health established a funding program to encourage municipalities to routinely include Complete Streets design elements and infrastructure on locally-funded roads. This program consists of three tiers. In Tier 1, municipalities establish a Complete Streets Policy detailing how the municipality will incorporate the principles into their communities and projects. Once the Policy has been approved by MassDOT, the municipalities develop a community wide Tier 2 Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. Developing the Tier 2 Plan includes assessing the needs of their community and identifying Complete Streets improvements to address those issues. Once the Plan is completed and actions prioritized, municipalities are able to apply for Tier 3 funding for implementation of the improvements noted in their Tier 2 plan.

Since its launch in February 2016, 129 municipal Complete Streets Policies in the Commonwealth have been approved by MassDOT and 26 projects have gained Tier 3 funding, totaling almost $10 million. Since the initiation of the program, funds have been used to construct improvements ranging from new sidewalks and crosswalk rehabilitation to bus stop improvement and installation of bicycle and shared lane markings.

Complete Streets in Winthrop

In March 2017, the Town of Winthrop approved a Complete Streets Policy. This policy, like others throughout the Commonwealth, states that all state, town, and private projects in the town with a transportation component take road users of all ages, abilities, and modes into consideration where feasible, and sets out reasonable definitions of where such consideration might be infeasible. It also sets out design guidance, standards, recommendations and best practices from both governmental and non-governmental organizations to be used be designers for the implementation of the Complete Streets Policy.

Developing Winthrop's Tier 2 Complete Streets Prioritization Plan

The Town of Winthrop was awarded a grant of $37,862 from MassDOT to develop a Tier 2 Complete Streets Prioritization Plan which has recently begun This process involves assessing needs such as pedestrian connections, safe pedestrian crossings, safe bicycle routes, and many others. In addition to professional assessment and observation, public input in this process is important and welcomed. As part of the project, an online tool has been setup to allow residents and interested parties to input directly to the project.  Anyone who has experienced a problem or has an idea related to street safety in Winthrop is encouraged to complete a wikimap survey so that the project team can be aware of these issues as they develop the Plan.