November 3, 2016
On Wednesday, October 26, Healthier Somerset joined the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, RideWise TMA, and the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University to present the benefits of incorporating “Complete Streets” into municipal planning programs. The Somerset County Division of Planning hosted planners, government officials, and health officers for this half-day session held at Steeplechase Cancer Center in Somerville, New Jersey.
Rebecca Perkins, Healthier Somerset’s project manager, spoke on the health impacts of Complete Streets. She noted that Complete Streets has been part of Healthier Somerset’s planning agenda since the organization’s founding in 2010. Incorporating Complete Streets into municipal planning offers both individual health benefits, including promoting physical activity, encouraging active living, and reducing obesity and related illnesses, and public health benefits, including safer streets, a cleaner environment, and improved mental health.
Complete Streets addresses all of Healthier Somerset’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) goal areas: mental health and substance abuse; obesity; chronic disease; and access to care.
Nine of the 21 Somerset County municipalities currently have Complete Streets policies in place. Three of these – Bound Brook, Manville, and Somerville – were added during Healthier Somerset’s “ShapingNJ” 2015 grant. The ninth municipality, North Plainfield, passed their resolution just months ago, noting that bicycle racks offered to the borough by Healthier Somerset as part of our current NJHCN grant, were an incentive. Representatives from both Bridgewater and Green Brook, our two remaining targeted 2016 municipalities, attended the October 26 session.
Healthier Somerset proudly shares our Complete Streets success with numerous partners, with exceptional efforts from RideWise TMA, Somerset-Morris Regional Chronic Disease Coalition, and many local public health officers. The Healthier Somerset presentation (available at http://www.co.somerset.nj.us/home/showdocument?id=17700) concluded by noting that “collaboration is the key to our success.” We are especially appreciative to the Somerset County Board of Freeholders and the Planning Division for providing this opportunity for enhanced collaboration!