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Eastern Jackson County wraps up third Complete Streets Consortium

Eastern Jackson County recently wrapped up the third Complete Streets Consortium Series in collaboration with the National Complete Streets Coalition. The series is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Active People, Healthy Nation (SM) Initiative

Safe streets play a vital role in enhancing health, equity, sustainability, prosperity, and quality of life. Over the past 18 months, Eastern Jackson County participated in three Complete Streets workshops designed to identify and overcome transportation barriers. The ultimate goal: to make our streets safer and better suited for people of all abilities to recreate, exercise, travel, and go about their daily lives.

Complete Streets is a learning collaborative that provides national guidance on issues and advice on local challenges in order to help communities enjoy safer, more equitable streets. In January 2020, the workshop series kicked off in Lee’s Summit and addressed the advantages of and opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian improvement. Pivoting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the previously in-person consortium series continued online.

Headed by the Jackson County Health Department, the Eastern Jackson County Complete Streets team includes the following members: elected and city officials from Sugar Creek, Lee’s Summit, Grandview, and Raytown; community volunteers; and regional organizations, including Mid-America Regional Council and BikeWalkKC.

Eastern Jackson County, the City of Kirkwood, and the City of Joplin were selected to participate in the Missouri Complete Streets consortium due to their shared challenges and opportunities. Working together virtually, the group found real-time solutions to implementing Complete Streets.

“The cross-sector collaboration from leaders across the state of Missouri was integral to the success of this program and the work in the communities,” said Emily Schweninger, Director of Thriving Communities at Smart Growth America. “We literally saw issues that seemed like insurmountable barriers being resolved in real-time during these sessions by talking across sectors and connecting folks with the information and know-how they need to get things done.”

As the consortium came to a close, the Eastern Jackson County team was asked to use the knowledge gained from the series to continue advocating for Complete Streets policies. Additionally, they were tasked with working collectively across jurisdictions and in unincorporated Jackson County to ensure that policies and networks align active transportation opportunities and destinations for the residents of Jackson County.

“The Missouri Complete Streets Consortium was a fantastic series that provided more knowledge, support, assistance, and community than our team could have imagined. It was incredible to learn from other Missouri cities, Smart Growth America, and even members of our team on ways to equitably implement complete streets initiatives,” said MaryAnna Henggeler, Program and Policy Specialist for the Jackson County Health Department. “Every workshop energized our team with new ideas and resources on ways to collaborate across the larger Eastern Jackson County community.”

Complete Streets is an ongoing journey. There is not a one-size-fits-all model for every neighborhood. Engaging all stakeholders, including community members, is imperative to ensure that streets are designed equitably and that infrastructure is built so that people can safely engage with it.

Throughout Jackson County, there is a lot of momentum and energy for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, including the newly expanded Rock Island Trail. By continuing to expand Complete Streets and including trails and parks such as the Rock Island Trail, residents will be connected to everyday destinations throughout the region and ultimately have more opportunities to be active and healthy in Jackson County.

The consortium will meet in one year to share progress. We hope to use this year to continue supporting Eastern Jackson County jurisdictions as they promote and adopt Complete Streets policies and to collectively work as a region to strengthen cross-jurisdictional partnerships around Complete Streets.