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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Oct 31

How Complete Streets and Public Health work to help people move more

Posted on October 31, 2019 at 9:44 AM by Kari Bray

By October 1, I’d started scouting my neighborhood for the most walkable trick-or-treating spots to take a toddler dressed for Hogwarts.

As autumn weather rolls in, it’s easy to forget how important – and enjoyable – it can be to have the option of getting around safely without a car. Planning a Halloween trick-or-treating route was a good reminder. 
Girls Trick-or-TreatingaActive transportation isn’t a one-day-a-year theme, though. Commuters get to and from work daily using active transportation – often biking or walking, combined with transit. Others commute to work by car, but walk to their local grocery store for dinner supplies or let their teen bike to a friend’s house on the weekend.

It’s become a key discussion point for planning. Active transportation is a way to make neighborhoods more appealing, manage increasing traffic, reduce vehicle emissions, and promote a healthy community.

“Everybody needs to move more,” said Keri Moore, a healthy communities specialist with the Snohomish Health District. “And we know that when it’s safe and easy and pleasant, people will walk or bike and not use their car.”

But making streets safe for all modes of transportation may require new sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes or other features. Those don’t come cheap.

There is grant funding available for cities to address those projects, and one of the efforts Moore works on for the Health District is Complete Streets. Over the last four years, $1.85 million in Complete Streets grants have come in to cities around Snohomish County. Every funding nomination but one was submitted by the Health District.

Complete Streets grants are for transportation projects that improve safety and mobility for all users. Every two years, Moore nominates local cities to the state Board of Health, which winnows the list and submits it to the Transportation Improvement Board to determine funding.

“I nominate every city in Snohomish County that is eligible and wants to be nominated,” Moore said. “To be eligible, they have to have a Complete Streets ordinance.”

That means local leaders must approve an ordinance addressing how the city’s street planning and design will prioritize safe, effective transportation for all modes and mobility levels.

“People hear Complete Streets and think it means every street has to have a sidewalk,” Moore said. “That’s not what it means. It means you have a network of safe streets for all users – cars, pedestrians, bikes, transit.”

Moore has provided guidance in crafting ordinances and spoken at city council meetings about the value of active transportation. She provides technical assistance when asked.

In 2016, the Health District nominated Edmonds, Marysville and Mountlake Terrace, while Everett was nominated through another channel. Edmonds and Everett received $250,000 each.

In 2018, the District nominated Arlington, Edmonds, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, and Mukilteo. 

man in crosswalkFour received awards, totaling $1.35 million.
  • Arlington: $600,000
  • Edmonds: $250,000
  • Lake Stevens: $200,000
  • Mill Creek: $300,000
Arlington’s $600,000 award was one of the largest statewide in that round of funding

The money is going toward improvements on 59th Avenue and 188th Street NE. That’s near the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, W.E. Evans Park, the skate park, the local food bank, and Bill Quake Memorial Park, which has ballfields for youth sports tournaments.

“The project creates sidewalks along 59th and 188th, and some protected crossings,” said Nova Heaton, development services manager with City of Arlington Community and Economic Development.

Design work for the new sidewalks and crossings is underway, and the goal is to start construction this summer and finish in 2021. The city’s transit plan calls for a new bus stop near one of the crosswalks, as well.

The area borders the manufacturing and industrial center around the Arlington Municipal Airport. A plan is in place, in partnership with the city of Marysville, to attract new employers and add thousands of jobs in the area over the next couple of decades. 

That means active transportation will be even more important. 

Bike lane“As we increase in population, which we can’t avoid, traffic increases, as well,” Heaton said. “One way to manage that is to increase options for transportation. We want to change how people think about how they can get around.”

Having more options also supports healthy lifestyles, she said. The Complete Street project area connects to an existing trail that loops around the airport. 

On a nice afternoon, Heaton said, there are more people walking the trail than there are cars on the road.

To learn more about Complete Streets in Snohomish County, contact Keri Moore at kmoore@snohd.org

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