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Complete Streets adopted for safety, prosperity

February 02, 2011 - In an effort to make downtown Oxford more pedestrian-friendly and economically prosperous, the village council last week voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution supporting the Complete Streets concept.

"Complete Streets are defined as roadways planned, designed and constructed to accommodate safe access for all users regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation," explained Anna Taylor, who sits on the Downtown Development Authority board.

Over the last few months, Taylor's spearheaded the effort to make the village a Complete Streets community, so Oxford can begin the process of making M-24 and the downtown area it bisects more accessible to pedestrians of all ages.

"We're glad we have traffic," said Taylor, who owns Pink & Charlie, a shop that sells ladies' accessories. "We don't want the traffic to go away, but we have to do something because a healthy, vibrant pedestrian community is our future."

The resolution basically states that wherever it's "feasible," the village will "incorporate Complete Streets design considerations and practices as a routine part of infrastructure and planning and implementation."

It also states that the village supports the continued development of the community's master plan and infrastructure plan in a way that "supports the ease of use, safety and accessibility for all users."

Right now, pedestrians don't cross M-24 as much as they battle it, in Taylor's opinion.

M-24 was originally designed to push a maximum amount of traffic through town in the most efficient manner possible. Hence, there are not many traffic signals or pedestrian crosswalks to slow it down.

There are pedestrians who shy away from walking or bicycling in the downtown area because they don't feel safe or comfortable crossing M-24, or they object to the noise created by the traffic, particularly the large trucks.

"Granted, we've gotten a tremendous boom because we have traffic, however, I will say to you that not one time since I've been a business owner, have I had a gravel hauler pull up to the back of my shop (and) walk into the store to tell me that he'd like to buy something," Taylor told council.

In order for the downtown business community to succeed, Taylor and the DDA believe M-24 traffic must be calmed and the highway itself must contain more pedestrian-friendly features. "It means the difference between surviving and prospering," she said.

Fortunately, it appears Oxford's going to get some help from the state given Michigan was the 14th state in the country to pass Complete Street legislation last year.

Michigan's 2011 transportation budget gives funding preference to communities that have Complete Streets policies.

"They know that if you've developed a Compete Streets policy that you are taking your transportation needs and your pedestrian community . . . seriously," Taylor said.

In addition to Oxford, 20 other Michigan cities, villages and counties have adopted Complete Streets policies.

Taylor noted the key to revitalizing Michigan's economy is the success of small downtowns like Oxford.

"The resurgence of main street is what is going to develop Michigan. This is where the jobs are, it's where our future is," she said. "We realize that if we're going to get back to where we were, we have got to make sure that our downtowns are prosperous."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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