Governing Magazine: Stretching Limited State Budgets With The Innovative DOT

Innovative, outside-the-box solutions to state transportation issues can save taxpayer money while still providing better service to transportation users.

Here’s what Governing magazine has to say about “The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice,” released today by Smart Growth America and the Smart State Transportation Initiative:

A group of state Department of Transportation directors has teamed up with the smart growth movement to release a new best-practices report that offers recommendations and case studies on how to stretch limited transportation dollars.

The partnership might seem to be something of an unusual relationship. Historically, the smart growth movement has made close inroads with city transportation planners and the transit community, who line up closely with the movement’s goals of encouraging transit-oriented development, finding alternatives to driving and designing walkable communities while combating sprawl.

State departments of transportation, meanwhile, spend the bulk of their time on highways.

But Smart Growth America CEO Geoff Anderson says his organization’s mission is broader than just encouraging transit and is more about moving people most efficiently. At a time when state transportation departments are strapped for cash, that’s a message that could resonate. The report’s goal is to highlight ways that transportation departments can get the most bang for their buck, and it highlights innovative techniques across the country.

“If you start to put them all together, it’s a pretty interesting package of stuff that includes smarter, cheaper ways to get at the same, better outcomes,” says Anderson.

The Innovative DOT includes 31 recommendations transportation officials can use as they position their agencies for success in the new economy. The handbook documents many of the innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied.

SSTI managing director Eric Sundquist explains that the transportation field lacks “a thorough, systematic account of innovative policy and practice” that the report could help fill.

The report still emphasizes the smart growth movement’s traditional goals. But it also touches on the value of collaboration between state agencies and local partners; “right-sizing” transportation projects; and finding innovative ways of securing funds for transportation projects.

“DOTs must change their strategic approaches to make smarter investments, to wring more and better performance out of our existing system, and to critically evaluate the full range of possible future investments. We must focus on those that do the most good for the least money,” former Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Al Biehler said in a statement.

Click here to learn more about “The Innovative DOT” and to download the full report.