AUBURN — A proposed walking-and-biking-path policy could change the way the entire Twin Cities look, said Auburn councilors Monday.
Councilors reviewed a proposed Complete Streets Policy at their Monday workshop meeting. It would require the city to plan for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, mass transit, delivery vehicles and motorists when they reconstruct a city street or approve a new development.
It's one of the first changes proposed by the Lewiston-Auburn Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee. The group plans to make a similar proposal to Lewiston City Councilors at their April 2 meeting.
"This really hits all of our goals," said Councilor Joshua Shea, a member of the committee. "It affects safety and economic development. We're going to make things safer for people, and we're going to make a better-looking city that is much easier for everybody to deal with."
Committee member Jeremiah Bartlett, of 107 Shepley St., said the idea is to provide streets that work for all residents.
"The idea is to build roads with better connections for all roads at the start," Bartlett said. "If you get it right the first time, you don't have to tear it out and change it later. You are going to save money."
It would require the city to consider more than just cars when they plan to reconstruct a road. This would include accommodating bikers, wheelchair users and pedestrians by creating walking paths with recognizable painted lanes and signs, as well as intersection controls within easy reach.
It also requires all changes to fit each neighborhood.
"There may be some misconceptions about the idea, that the complete streets are some kind of bike-lane gestapo," Bartlett said. "That's not really the case. It's trying to look at each facility and decide how it works. It's not bicycle lanes on every single street or a special street project or a mandate for immediate retrofits. It's not some sort of cudgel to get everybody out spending what's left in their budgets."
Minor maintenance, such as filling potholes and crack sealing, could be performed without triggering bike-lane improvements. It would also let the city forgo the changes if they'd expand the road onto private property or into the floodplain, which would be especially expensive and unlikely to be used.
City projects would need approval from the Lewiston-Auburn Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee if they wanted to exempt a reconstruction project.
Councilors said they liked the idea. They're scheduled to vote on the proposal at their April 16 meeting.