A commitment to make Muskogee's streets safe and convenient to everyone regardless of their mode of transportation earned the city national recognition.
A national organization ranked the city's complete streets policy, which city councilors adopted in February 2016, among the top five in the nation. The median score of the 222 policies adopted in 2016 was 80.8, and the complete streets policy adopted by Muskogee scored a 96 out of a possible score of 100.
"It is clear that communities are consistently passing stronger and more effective complete streets policies," the authors of National Complete Streets Coalition's state in its recent report. "This is an outstanding accomplishment, and one that we could not be more proud and honored to celebrate."
The coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, notes in the report released this past week there were more complete street policies adopted in 2016 than ever before. The quality of those policies, the organization found, "were the strongest ever passed."
Assistant City Manager Mike Stewart said a lot of people deserve credit for the policy adopted here. But he pointed to TSET Healthy Living Coordinator Doug Walton of the Muskogee County Health Department as "the prominent force behind it."
Walton began advocating for the adoption of the concept in 2012, urging city planners to take complete streets into consideration at all stages of planning, designing new or existing roadways. He and Mark Bonney, who at the time was chairman of the citizens' street advisory committee, formed a subcommittee to focus on that aspect.
"It was a cumulative effort from a lot of people in the community, and we are very proud of it," Stewart said, who also gave a lot of credit to public works staff. "When we look back on this 10, 20 years down the road, we are going to see all the improvements that were made because of the complete streets policy and that it's more friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists and the motoring public."
Walton said he was "very thrilled" to learn that Muskogee's policy ranked fourth in the nation. Walton also said he is thankful that his position at the health department provides him with the opportunity "to invest time and resources to promote" things like complete streets.
"This is a testament to the hard work of a lot of people," Walton said. "I think it is high time we've got Muskogee on the right end of the list — being recognized across the nation, we should all feel great about this."
In the report, a portion of the Muskogee's policy that establishes "performance measures" was used as an example for best practices. And the 13 policies identified in "The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2016" were described as the "standard-bearers" and models for other communities.
Muskogee's policy also indicates the city will “make every effort to create a safe, reliable, efficient, integrated and connected transportation network that will enhance the safety, mobility and health for people of all ages and abilities.”
Article published in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix on June 15, 2017
Written by D.E. Smoot, Phoenix Staff Writer