Assembly Kneecaps Complete Streets; Senate Passes Hayley & Diego’s Law

Just when you thought the State Assembly was safe for forward-thinking transportation legislation, Rochester rep David Gantt, the Transportation Committee chair formerly of bus cam-killing fame, has thrown a wrench into attempts to pass a complete streets bill.

The complete streets bill would require almost all new and reconstructed roads in the state to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and people with limited mobility. The bill is a top priority for street safety advocates and has a very high-profile champion in AARP.

The legislation seemed to move forward today, when the Senate passed the bill, sponsored in that chamber by Sen. Martin Dilan, by a vote of 58-3, according to AARP legislative director Bill Ferris. 

But Gantt, technically the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, had made a few amendments to it this Tuesday, before passing it out of his committee. Gantt’s edits would drastically scale back the bill, covering only roads under the state DOT’s jurisdiction. "It wouldn’t cover any local or county roads," explained Ferris. Both houses have to pass the same bill for it to become law.

According to the Albany Times Union, Dilan, Gantt, and the state DOT are currently negotiating a compromise, which Ferris called an encouraging sign. AARP is urging the Assembly to take up the Senate’s bill, but barring that, said Ferris, "we certainly think there should be a negotiation on this bill before the end of the session."

The good news in Albany today: Hayley and Diego’s Law passed the Senate by a vote of 39 to 22. It now goes to the governor’s desk. If Paterson, who has a record of supporting traffic safety, signs the bill, law enforcement will have a new option for bringing charges against drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists. In cases where prosecutors may hesitate to bring charges like criminally negligent homicide, Hayley and Diego’s Law would create a new middle ground — the charge of "careless driving" — making it more likely that dangerous drivers will face consequences for their actions. We have a request in with the governor’s office to determine his position on the bill.