By Barbara Taormina
The City Council postponed a vote to endorse Malden’s Complete Streets program this week so that councilors could have a chance to review the program.
Complete Streets is a policy and design movement geared toward making roads safer and more accessible for all users, particularly pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation passengers and people with disabilities. The state has launched a grant program that offers communities up to $400,000 a year for road improvements tied to those goals.
To be eligible for the money the city needed a Complete Streets policy which was written by Mayor Gary Christenson’s office back in 2016. The city also needed a prioritized list of projects, which Malden’s Complete Streets Task Force developed over the past year with the help of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and members of the community.
The project list has already been submitted to Massachusetts Department of Transportation which will decide which projects will receive funding. Although a council vote isn’t required to move Malden’s Complete Streets program forward, Ward 1 Councilor Peg Crowe, who served on the program’s task force last year, urged fellow councilors to endorse the program.
“The vote is to support the policy as it stands,” said Crowe who added that councilors can’t make any changes to the work that has already been done on the project plans. “When a City Council is behind it, it says yes, we all agree with the policy. “
Ward 5 Councilor Barbara Murphy, who is the new City Council rep on the Complete Streets Task Force, also urged fellow councilors to show their support for the program.
“It’s a great program that can get us an additional $400,000 a year to do some nice-to-have projects,” she said.
Typical projects include adding or upgrading crosswalks with more signals and signs, adding handicap ramps, creating bike lanes and extending curbs to slow down traffic.
Still, Murphy supported other councilors who said they needed more time to dive into the details of Complete Streets.
One of the biggest concerns for several councilors was the state’s promise to come through with grant money to pay for road projects. Councilors Craig Spadafora and Paul Condon wondered if the Complete Streets grant program might follow in the footsteps of the Community Preservation Act funding which has declined significantly over the years.
Although Councilor Stephen Winslow, an advocate of the Complete Streets program, assured fellow councilors that they could depend on the funding, the council agreed to table their vote for two weeks.