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City considers axing Complete Streets feedback form

In the midst of everything else that’s happened over the last year, the Seminary Road debate can feel like a relic of another age, but there was a time when the Complete Streets program was at the center of a community-wide debate.

Complete Streets is an Alexandria program that aims to redesign roadways for the benefit of all users, with pedestrians and cyclists in mind along with motorists. The program stirred up some local controversy over plans to reduce travel lanes on Seminary Road in favor of bike lanes. A form put out by the city allowed locals to weigh in on street resurfacing.

“In 2018, the City began issuing an annual Citywide feedback form for residents to provide input on streets that are being resurfaced,” staff said in a report. “Feedback is usually collected for non-local streets where striping improvements are potentially feasible. Staff analyzes all public comments and produces a report for each street to summarize resident feedback.”

A staff report said that each Complete Streets announcement often comes with significant feedback.

“Every year, staff develops a repaving feedback form to solicit community input on streets that are scheduled to be repaved in the coming paving season, accompanied by an eNews release, webpage updates, and social media engagement,” the report said. “Staff receives hundreds of community comments related to repaving each year, which are then analyzed and summarized in a report for each street. The intention is that this feedback would then be used to inform potential changes to those streets via repaving. The original of this effort was to garner feedback to improve service delivery.”

At a Transportation Commission meeting tomorrow, the city will consider a proposal (page 36) from staff to eliminate a form that allowed locals to offer input on the project, saying the form was often misused and wastes staff resources:

  • Much of the community feedback is related to issues beyond the scope street resurfacing
  • This results in wasted staff effort and a potential erosion of trust between City staff and
    residents
  • Much feedback does not end up getting used
  • The repaving form sometimes creates speculation about what the City is planning to do to
    streets that are repaved, which can increase tensions in the community
  • This approach fails to set accurate or reasonable expectations

Staff are recommending that the form but eliminated in favor of more targeted local outreach.

The report also recommends longer-term planning for the Complete Streets program to help make implementation occur on a more reliable timeline.

“Staff recommends the development of a five-year work plan for Complete Streets with input from the Transportation Commission,” the report said. “This approach would generate clear expectations for residents, City Council, City boards and commissions, and staff for what Complete Streets improvements will be done. Staff anticipates this work plan would be developed in Fiscal Year 2023 and would consider crash data and equity to support and align with Vision Zero efforts.”

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