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Complete Street Design Guidelines Project

Complete Streets - Ongoing Process 
Since adoption, the Council’s Complete Streets direction is being incorporated into multiple City policy initiatives, including the 2014 Transportation Master Plan and Greenroads® projects. In addition, the City has now implemented Complete Streets principles in the construction of several major streets including Stadium Way and Pacific Avenue, has increased efforts to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians citywide, and has constructed several streets incorporating Green Infrastructure (Low Impact Development) stormwater approaches.

City Council Adoption

On November 17, 2009 the City Council adopted Resolution Number 37916: "A Resolution relating to the City's street design; endorsing the creation and ongoing development of Tacoma's Complete Streets Design Guidelines; and directing the City Manager to implement the Mixed-use Centers Complete Streets Design Guidelines and the Residential Complete Streets Design Guidelines."

Posted below are the approved documents, along with a summary of the project:

Mixed-use Centers Complete Streets Design Guidelines
Residential Streets Complete Streets Design Guidelines
Complete Streets Design Guidelines Project Summary

Public Input on the Draft Guidelines

Over the course of the past months, the City has received numerous public comments on the draft Mixed-use Center and Residential Guidelines. The project team assembled a list of recommended changes to reflect that input.

Public Comments & Recommended Changes Summary

City staff presented the recommended changes to the City Council Environment and Public Works Committee on October 14, 2009. The Committee directed staff to implement the recommended changes and adopted a Do Pass recommendation to the full City Council.

Project Overview

The objective of this project is to develop street design guidelines to implement Tacoma's goal that every street built will be complete in terms of safely and comfortably accommodating all users and fostering a sense of place in the public realm. The scope includes development of a draft complete streets vision, draft streetscape design guidelines, and an analysis of existing conditions, feasibility and implementation issues. The Planning Division and Public Works Department are partnering on this project, with the collaboration of a broad range of City departments, public agencies and citizens.

This project is intended to provide the City Council with well-developed, staff recommended street design guidelines for a complete streets approach tailored to Tacoma, along with ample analysis to understand the issues, costs and trade-offs (if any) of adopting those guidelines. Should the City Council so direct, adoption of these guidelines would lead into a second phase potentially including code review, development of engineering standards implementing the guidelines, and other implementation steps.

Update - Scope of the Project Broadened

The Complete Streets Project now has a broadened scope incorporating the whole City! When this project began in 2008, the objective was to develop guidelines for streets located within Tacoma’s Mixed-use Centers. Next, interest grew in developing guidelines for the City’s residential areas. As work progressed, it became increasingly clear that the City would be best served by a comprehensive citywide set of design guidelines—now the project’s ultimate objective.

Different types of streets serve different needs, users and destinations, and should be designed accordingly. The City’s Complete Streets Guidelines will include a range of street typologies tailored to the goals, functions and typical conditions found in different areas of the City.

The bulk of work to date has focused on Mixed-use Centers streets—draft guidelines are now available for public review and comment. Our next objective is residential streets—these guidelines are currently being developed. Later in 2009, the project team will work toward guidelines for other areas, including industrial areas and major connector streets. Also in 2009, as the City’s Strategic Mobility Master Plan effort gets underway, additional guidelines will be developed for pedestrian and bicycle features.

What Are Complete Streets?

Complete Streets is a nationally recognized term referring to streets and sidewalks that are designed, operated and maintained to enable safe and convenient access and travel for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities, as well as freight and motor vehicle drivers. Complete streets also foster a sense of place in the public realm and incorporate green features including trees, landscaping and, in some cases, low impact development stormwater features.

Complete streets principles support multiple City policy priorities, including the City’s Transportation policies, the recommendations of the Green Ribbon Task Force on Climate Change, the City’s Downtown, Mixed-use Centers and residential goals, the City Manager’s Make Tacoma Safe and Clean Initiative and others. “Complete” city streets means providing walkable, transit and bicycle-oriented streets and sidewalks that safely and comfortably accommodate users of all ages and abilities. A complete street provides a broad range of benefits, including public health and safety improvements; supporting land use and growth goals; supporting neighborhoods and businesses; and, fostering a healthier environment.

For additional information on complete streets, two good sources are the National Complete Streets Coalition and the Walkable Communities.

Mixed-Use Centers Complete Streets

On December 10, 2008, the City Council Environment and Public Works Committee initiated the public review of the Mixed-use Centers Complete Streets Design Guidelines. The report is now available for download—we welcome your input and questions.

The Mixed-use Centers were the first focus for the City’s Complete Streets Project. Funding for this portion of the project was provided thanks to a Competitive Planning Grant awarded by the State of Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED). AHBL, Inc. and David Evans & Associates, Inc. prepared the guidelines and analysis, in close consultation with staff, partner agencies and community stakeholders.

Tacoma’s Mixed-Use Centers are areas where development will be directed, concentrated and served by a broad range of transportation options. The Centers vision emphasizes creating a safe, comfortable and interesting walking and biking environment through the efficient use of land and by providing streets and sidewalks that are comfortable and safe for all users. Over the past several years, the City has conducted an extensive update of the Centers vision and policies and is currently reviewing the implementing regulations. The Centers vision and policies are contained in the Generalized Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan.

The City identified the Mixed-use Centers as high priority areas for complete streets approaches. While all streets are important, this emphasis on Centers streets is based on their role in achieving Tacoma’s long-range growth vision. Also, Centers streets are more complex in terms of accommodating the broadest range of features and travel options. Click here to view a map of Tacoma’s Mixed-use Centers.

Residential Complete Streets

The City is now developing complete streets guidelines for residential streets, with support from AHBL, Inc., partner agencies, and community stakeholders. Draft guidelines are expected to be available for public review in summer of 2009. The project team is actively seeking input from the public. See below for a schedule of events, and contact staff for information or to provide your input.

The majority of Tacoma’s land area is in residential land use, and residential streets figure prominently in the lives of all Tacomans. The design and condition of residential streets, sidewalks, landscaping and other features play a major role in defining neighborhood character. Residential streets influence appearance, vehicular and pedestrian safety, neighborhood vitality, where people park their cars, stormwater runoff and more.

This portion of the project seeks to ensure that Tacoma’s residential streets safely and comfortably accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, and people of all ages and abilities, as well as provide guidance for the long-term upgrade of residential streets that are currently developed with a temporary surface or without curbs, gutters or sidewalks. The guidelines will fine tune Tacoma’s current residential street designs, and will develop new tools including low impact development stormwater techniques and traffic calming techniques.


Project Schedule

The project ran from June 2008 through early 2010. 

Background Materials

Sustainable Tacoma Commission Presentation - November 10, 2009
Environment and Public Works Committee Presentation - October 14, 2009
Environment and Public Works Committee Presentation - May 27, 2009
Environment and Public Works Committee Presentation - December 10, 2008
Community Focus Group Presentation - October 8, 2008

Staff Contacts

Elliott Barnett
Urban Planner
(253) 591-5389

Jennifer Kammerzell
Special Projects Engineer
(253) 591-5511

Ralph Rodriguez
Local Improvement District Program
(253) 591-5522