EDITORIAL: Complete Streets

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s adoption of a “Complete Streets” policy for future road development in the city is a model of consensus-building and compromise that is so often lacking in government at all levels these days.
The City Council last week unanimously adopted as policy that new city road developments must incoporate sidewalks, bicycle lanes and other accommodations for alternative transportation and pedestrians.
The policy isn’t hard and fast; it allows for exemptions when costs and other issues dictate. But it sets Tupelo clearly on a path toward a more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly city.
The policy was more stringent when first proposed in February. It originally covered but no longer includes private developments, though the city already requires developers to include sidewalks in new subdivisions.
The policy as initially written also put a 20 percent cap on the additional cost for accommodating non-vehicular traffic; now it’s 5 percent.
The changes were the result of good-faith negotiations that took into account the concerns of developers and elected city officials. The final product may have not been everything the advocates of Complete Streets wanted, but it’s a reasonable forward step.
It also puts Tupelo, along with the city of Hernando, in the forefront of a growing national movement. They are the first two cities in Mississippi to go the Complete Streets route.
Good reasons for the policy abound. Chief among them is the quality of life issue.
Tupelo’s new comprehensive plan clearly states a goal of more dense development and envisions a city in which lifestyle options include living close enough to work, shopping and recreation to get there by walking, bicycling or other alternative transportation means. This option is increasingly favored by many young individuals and families, and by giving it priority status Tupelo will make the city more attractive as modes of living and interacting change.
For those who choose to live in more conventional subdivisions and neighborhoods, accommodation of walkers and cyclists simply makes for a more pleasant, neighborly and healthy atmosphere.
Additionally, energy costs are sure to continue to rise in future years and reducing dependence on the automobile for daily tasks outside the home will be both economically and environmentally wise.
Tupelo has already gotten some national, even international, attention for its adoption of Complete Streets. That’s a side benefit to the improvements to the city it will bring in the coming years.
Adoption of the policy is in line with Tupelo’s progressive, forward-thinking heritage and is testament to the willingness of the new administration and City Council to iron out differences in a reasonable, non-polarizing way.