CHARLOTTE AMALIE — AARP in The Virgin Islands has led the efforts for the passage of Complete Streets Legislation. On Friday, October 2, 2020, during the 33rd Legislatures’ Committee on Housing Transportation, Infrastructure & Telecommunications Hearing, Bill No. 33-0041and Amendment 33-681, which establishes the “Complete Streets Policy” in the construction and repairs designs of roadways within the territory. It was passed favorably out of committee.
The bill now heads to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary. The bill was sponsored by Senators Steven Payne and Oakland Benta. Besides Payne and Benta, AARP said it also “thanks Senator Marvin Blyden, Chair of the Committee, and committee members – Senators Alicia Barnes, Allison DeGazon, Donna Frett-Gregory, Stedman Hodge, Jr., Myron Jackson, and Javan James.”
“Complete Streets” improves the livability of a community, easing transportation concerns for residents, while improving public safety, health and the environment, AARP said. Bill No. 33-0041 encourages community and engagement in the planning, designing, and implementation of street projects with the assistance of a multifunctional task force.
“This coalition of community partners and key government agencies will provide the first phase assessment and plans for implementation,” AARP said. “The coalition will provide a platform for ensuring that the lead planning agency, the V.I. Department of Public Works, follows the guidelines set forth in the policy in the planning for all modes of transportation.”
The population in the Virgin Islands is aging at a rapid pace. Research indicates that the population of Virgin Islanders over the age of 50 will increase from 41.4 percent of the population to 44.1 percent by 2030. The
percentage of Virgin Islanders over 60 will increase from 27.6 percent to 32.9 percent of the territory’s population.
The designs of the streets in this territory continue to make mobility difficult for our residents. It is difficult or non-drivers of all ages and abilities to navigate many areas within the community, AARP said.
“Many lack accessible thoroughfares that connect residents to common areas like government services, shops, and offices making it difficult to navigate due to broken streets and sidewalks, sidewalks blocked by signs, and posts,” it said.
AARP said that the focus of the Complete Streets Policy will allow Department of Public Works to change policies and procedures to ensure that accommodations for multi-mode of travel is incorporated into project
Complete Streets Policies offer an opportunity to improve the travel options for all users. It encourages safer streets through policy adoption at the state/territorial and regional-levels—mirroring an approach already at work in more than 600 jurisdictions, including regional and local bodies, 28 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
With the passage of this Bill, Virgin Islanders from eight to 80 can be safe and their lives will be improved. Traveling throughout the territory, whether by vehicle, walking, bicycling or on wheelchair, will be possible for all residents and visitors. Everyone will enjoy a more livable community.
AARP in The Virgin Islands is continuing to advocate for AARP Members and Virgin Islanders for passage of this bill.