To Make Streets Safer, Michigan DOT Takes the Pedestrian’s Perspective

A lot of state transportation departments talk the talk when it comes to designing streets that are safe for everyone. But Michigan — forgive the pun — is literally walking the walk.

Photo: Michigan Municipal League via Flickr

MDOT’s “walkability reviews” are meant to improve safety and boost local economies. Photo: Michigan Municipal League/Flickr

Chris Spahr at the State Smart Transportation Initiative reports today on the Michigan DOT’s “walkability reviews,” which the agency started conducting 10 years ago:

The most recent round of walkability reviews was conducted April 21-25 in six communities. Walkability reviews are usually organized by an MDOT-contracted consultant who coordinates a walking tour of the community to study areas where bicycling, walking, streetscapes, and traffic calming can be improved. The Walkability Checklist developed out of a partnership among the U.S. DOTEPASafe Routes to School, and Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is a commonly used tool. Toole Design Group conducted the current round of reviews. While open to anyone, walkability reviews are typically geared to government administrators, engineers, municipal planners, business owners, and residents.

Polly Kent, the Intermodal Policy Division Administrator at MDOT, highlighted the importance of walkability reviews in communities where a roadway project may occur in the next five years. By working with communities to understand challenges to walkability, MDOT can design projects that will bolster local economies, improve safety, and implement complete streets policies.

Deb Alfonso, the Supervisor of the Intermodal Service Unit within the Bureau of Planning at MDOT, described walkability reviews as a way to work with stakeholders to build support for a common vision of street networks that support a diversity of transportation modes. She described MDOT as the “spark” for this vision, but that it is really the communities themselves that carry the vision forward. She provided the example of Benton Harbor, MI, which initiated a call for a larger study of a proposed road reconstruction project as a result of walkability reviews. Benton Harbor has since adopted a complete streets policy as part of its non-motorized plan and has seen a surge in businesses wanting to locate downtown.

Sounds like a program that every state DOT should have.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on how Chevy Chase, Maryland, is trying to obstruct the extension of Metro’s Purple Line. Mobilizing the Region offers five reasons Connecticut should rethink its plans to spend $400 million widening I-84. And the Bike League spotlights Philadelphia’s popular “Kidical Mass” event.