Upcoming webinar: "The Innovative DOT" with the Federal Highway Administration

State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have ambitious goals: improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance economic opportunity, improve reliability, preserve system assets, accelerate project delivery, and help to create healthier, more livable neighborhoods, just to name a few. These goals would be challenging even if money were no object, but dwindling conventional federal and state transportation funding makes these goals even harder to achieve.

The Innovative DOT: A handbook of policy and practice, published earlier this year by Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative, lays out 31 tools transportation officials can use as they position their agencies for success in the new economy.

On December 12, from 3:00-4:30 PM EST, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will host a webinar about the report and its recommendations. FHWA is partnering with the Project for Public Spaces and INDUS Corporation to present this free event.


Smart Growth Stories: Taking transit-oriented development to a new level in Portland, OR

For developers selecting a site for new development, transit accessibility is a major selling point. A good transit connection can increase property values while making a site more attractive to potential investors and residents. But because transit stations are limited resources, only a handful of sites can boast direct transit access. What if a site were to have access to not only one transit line, but three?

That is the situation for LOCUS member ZRZ Realty and its property Zidell Yards. With three types of transit, the Yards might be the most transit-oriented development site in the country.

“There are very few sites that have streetcar and light rail,” says Dennis Allen, Director of Planning and Development for ZRZ Realty and LOCUS Steering Committee member. “I guarantee you that we’re probably the only one that also has an aerial tram that goes next to it. If you throw that in, it’s probably the most pre-eminent transit-oriented development site.”

Zidell Yards is a 33-acre former shipbuilding yard along the Willamette River in Portland, which ZRZ is now working to develop into a mixed-use district. Located directly adjacent to downtown and close to Oregon Health & Science University, a major employer in the area, it is the largest undeveloped site in the city. With such immediate transportation access, the property has created high hopes for economic development and investment in the area and Allen is confident his company can capitalize on the demand for TOD in Portland right now. More amenities, retail stores and restaurants are expected soon, following the development-friendly path of the city’s expanding light-rail line.

Local Leaders Council LOCUS

Partnership in the News: Port Richmond Trail restoration project breaks ground

Recently, a 1.5 mile stretch of the Port Richmond Trail broke ground. Once completed, the project will reconstruct and improve 16.3 miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails that are part of a 128-mile regional network of trails throughout the Philadelphia region, with the help of a $23 million TIGER grant from the Department of Transportation.

U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz, a key player in securing the TIGER grant, had this to say about the project:

“Reconnecting northeast Philadelphia communities with the Delaware River matters deeply to the residents of northeast Philadelphia, for both improved recreational opportunities and to build towards greater local economic development efforts.”


More results in from Tuesday's elections show big wins for smart growth

Photo by mystuart, via Flickr.

On Tuesday, voters from across the country overwhelmingly showed their support for smart growth, crossing partisan lines to support open spaces, land conservation, and public transportation.

“These votes demonstrate Americans’ commitment to strengthening communities and economies, as voters recognized the value of smart investments and how they can benefit their own neighborhoods and towns,” says Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson.

The most recent results to come in this week include a $166 million parks measure in Houston, TX and a $77.7 million parks measure in Austin, TX.


Smart Growth Stories: Building relationships and planning connections in mid-Michigan

Looking down Michigan Avenue in Lansing, Michigan. Photo by the Graham Davis, via Flickr.

Three counties in mid-Michigan are working to improve their region, and they’re using a much-talked about — but seldom seen — strategy to make it happen: collaboration.

The Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability is a dynamic and interactive effort to bring smart growth and concerted planning to the mid-Michigan region. Organized by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and made possible by a Regional Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Program is composed of hundreds of organizations from across Eaton, Clinton, and Ingham counties.


Smart Growth America congratulates President Obama on winning re-election

Washington, DC – Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson released the following statement after yesterday’s election results:

“Smart Growth America congratulates President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on their victory Tuesday night. As we look to the future of the President’s second term, Smart Growth America looks forward to building upon the successes of the past four years.

“The President’s leadership and vision has already led to the game-changing Partnership for Sustainable Communities and a renewed interest at the federal level in embracing strategies that make our towns and communities stronger. These strategies, aided through several federal programs like competitive transportation infrastructure grants and technical assistance for long-term regional planning, will contribute greatly to America’s economic comeback while preserving our environment and enhancing citizens’ quality of life.

“Working together and across the aisle, President Obama and members of Congress now have the unique opportunity to make the financially prudent decisions America needs and wants. Investing in existing communities is at the heart of reinvigorating our economy, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on these vital issues.”


Spotlight on Sustainability: The unique challenges of smart growth in rural Montana

The Cabinet Mountains in northern Montana. Photo courtesy of Almost-Normal Photography.

How do you grow responsibly in frontier communities? What does smart growth look like in these extremely rural areas? How can you adapt smart growth principles – often associated with urban cores – to small town America? These are precisely the kinds of questions that Vibrant Futures Montana is working to answer with the help of a Regional Planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

To develop solutions for northern Montana’s unique issues, Vibrant Futures has been working hard to coordinate the efforts of local governments and communities which are spread out over an immense territory – over 31,000 square miles. “Between 11 counties and 3 reservations,. there has historically been no coordination between governmental entities as to how they would plan,” says Deborah Kottel, Interim Regional Coordinator at Vibrant Futures, They’ve never thought about how the counties could work together.”

Promoting cooperation and coordination is key to the region’s success, Kottel notes, and much of the group’s efforts have been devoted to creating and fostering relationships between the counties’ administrators. The counties can more effectively tackle the region’s challenges by working together.

In particular, Kottel says, the region must prepare for economic fluctuations. And as a planner, she understands how such specific regional challenges affect how planning must be carried out.

“When a tiny community’s economy relies on unpredictable industries like oil exploration, planning becomes drastically different than in a more steady city of any size. When the boom has ended, what happens? Can you turn worker camps into industrial parks? And if so, how do you do that? These are the kinds of questions we’re trying to answer.” The region also suffers from a scarcity of vital services, like medical and dental care, the lack of which has been pushing the aging parts of the population out of small towns and undercutting local businesses.

A recently implemented bus route, however, has done much to address the lack of regional connectivity between communities. “Simple things like putting in a reliable bus line can do so much and allow people to live in rural communities and let them live how they want while also connecting them to other people and other communities,” Kottel says.


Partnership in the News: Sustain Southern Maine wins over more residents

On Monday, October 15, Sustain Southern Maine, a recipient of a HUD Regional Planning grant, held an informational meeting in Eliot, Maine to  inform residents of their planning efforts and invite the community to participate. Sustain Southern Maine is a coalition of municipalities, non-profit organizations, and businesses working to generate positive regional development.

In light of the challenges being faced by Southern Maine communities, including lack of quality educational and employment opportunities, limited housing options, dependence on oil for heating homes and motor vehicle transportation, insufficient infrastructure for sewer, water, telecommunications and other services, and lack of services for the elderly, Sustain Southern Maine aims to promote public transportation, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, preservation of local character, and the coordination of land-use policies and investment.


New report highlights laws, policies and program ideas for state transportation officials

The National Conference of State Legislatures has released a new report, On the Move: State Strategies for 21st Century Transportation Solutions. The report is intended to serve as a guide for state legislators, and is filled with policies that promote fiscal and environmental sustainability; facilitate affordable, safe and accessible transportation choices; and achieve shared benefits such as improved public health and economic development.

The new report is broken into four sections, each taking a look at a different aspect of effective policy:

  • Taking the Long View examines policies that exemplify a forward-thinking, sustainable approach to providing surface transportation infrastructure and services over the long term. This includes provision of sustainable transportation funding and consideration of life-cycle costs in transportation decision-making.
  • Using What You Have explores effective and cost-efficient approaches that help make the most of existing infrastructure, such as fix-it-first and asset management, operations and management, and commute trip reduction.

Partnership in the News: Anacostia Riverwalk Trail plan revealed

On Monday, October 15, federal and state officials from Maryland and the District of Columbia held an event to announce a four-mile portion of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail that will be known as the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens segment and will be funded largely by a 2012 DOT TIGER grant.

The trail is a broader effort to bring development and activity to the Anacostia waterfront, as it connects 60 miles of trails in Maryland and throughout the District. Mayor of D.C. Vincent Gray had this to say about the project:

“This latest segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is an important part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative’s efforts to create a healthy, green, equitable and prosperous city – goals that go hand-in-hand with my Sustainable DC plan. I’m excited today to unveil the trail’s unique design, which will give the public a window into the host of benefits this new regional trail link will provide to our neighbors in Maryland as well. We look forward to continued collaboration with our regional and federal partners as we move forward with construction and press ahead with our efforts to create a world-class Anacostia Riverfront in our city.”