A street sign in Vergennes, VT, one of the first participants in VTrans and ACCD’s Strong Communities, Better Connections program. Photo by The Selby.
In a new collaboration to support vibrant community centers and increase in town and regional transportation options, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development are pleased to announce the Strong Communities, Better Connections Pilot Grant Program has funded three projects that help align land use planning and community revitalization efforts with transportation investments.
The new program was informed in part by an ongoing partnership between VTrans and national non-profit Smart Growth America to identify ways to strengthen Vermont’s economy through greater coordination between state transportation policies and investments and local land use decisions.
“Programs like these have helped other states around the country grow local economies and better meet residents’ mobility needs,” said Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America. “In creating this program VTrans again demonstrates why the agency ranks with the most innovative transportation agencies in the nation, and Vermont’s communities and residents will be the ones to benefit.”
“Vermonters depend upon their transportation system to provide access to work, school, shopping and other activities. We need to collaborate with communities and coordinate public polices and investments in order to grow our economy and reduce our energy consumption,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter. “This inter-agency collaboration is doing just that by helping communities and plan and grow in way that makes it easier for Vermonters to walk, bike, or take transit.”
“This unique partnership between agencies of transportation and commerce and community development is breaking down the government silos, aligning state investments to promote walkability and economic vitality in our community centers and giving Vermonters more freedom to choose how they move from place to place,” said Housing and Community Development Commissioner Noelle MacKay.
The grant winners are: Mad River Valley Towns (Warren and Waitsfield), which will develop a unified, multi-town plan for non-motorized transportation facilities; the Towns of Rutland and West Rutland, to increase transportation options connecting the two centers of commerce and activity; and the City of Vergennes, which will develop a master plan to improve the biking and walking connections between the downtown district and Basin Harbor.
The new program will grant approximately $200,000 each year to help Vermont municipalities outside of Chittenden County (Chittenden County has a similar program administered by its regional planning commission). The state received eight applications, requesting approximately half a million in funding. Program Managers Jackie Cassino (VTrans) and Richard Amore (ACCD) said the communities summited strong proposals, making the inaugural round of the grant program extremely competitive. The grants are reviewed by a five-member selection committee comprised of representatives from state agencies and regional planning commissions. Visit VTrans’ website to learn more.