Champion of People-Centered Streets Brings Strong Towns Approach to Congress

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The Strong Towns approach to designing safe streets is to prioritize walking and bicycling and to accommodate cars. We are sowing safety with this approach, but we are reaping the economic rewards which result. Safe, walkable, bikeable streets in town and city centers are the most economically productive places in North America. 

No one understands this better than a longtime town council leader who now represents a Congressional district comprising suburban Massachusetts to the east and south of Boston. Representative Jake Auchinclosss (MA-4th District) of Newton spoke up in a hearing this month supporting increased walking and biking safety by putting an end to car-centric street design. He said safety and financial productivity will follow those towns that learn to prioritize non-motorized users and accommodate automobiles. 

Auchincloss said this Strong Towns approach to building safe and productive streets should be the way forward as Congress and the administration roll out $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA) passed in November 2021. He took his comments one step further and entered the entire 2022 Strong Towns Strategic Plan into the Congressional Record in a June 8th Highways and Transit subcommittee hearing

“As fatalities of people walking and biking on our roads continue to rise it’s just very clear that our pattern of roadway design and the status quo isn’t working,” he told the hearing. A YouTube clip of his testimony has been making the rounds of Strong Towns staff the past few days. “Our streetways need to be places that … feel safe for humans,” he said. 

As part of the implementation of the $1.2-trillion IIJA, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is charged with creating key policy direction and rolling out historic funding to invest in roadway safety. Auchincloss and his fellow committee member Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), both featured in a 2021 Strong Towns Podcast episode, are uniquely positioned to move this approach forward.

Auchincloss, a Democrat, is serving his first term in Congress, in a seat vacated by Joe Kennedy III, but he served many years as a local leader re-imagining street spaces with the Strong Towns approach, including hosting a Town Hall with Strong Towns founder Charles Marohn, with whom he remains close. His partnership across the aisle with Rep. Gallagher is emblematic of his ability to work across political divides in America to ensure communities become more economically resilient – and safer for bikers, walkers and transit users. 

After graduating from Harvard College, Auchincloss joined the Marines. He commanded infantry in Afghanistan and special operations in Panama, and he’s now a major in the reserves. After returning home, he served on the City Council in Newton, Massachusetts. Auchincloss was elected to Congress in 2020.

We’ll be featuring commentary by Auchincloss in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more from this Strong Towns champion. His audience and reach has grown since his days serving on town council, but his focus remains: safe, productive, and resilient communities.

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