New York passes bill to make infrastructure investments smarter

New York State Senate Chamber Originally uploaded by bill85704

In a time when state public infrastructure funds are already stretched thin, can we afford to exacerbate the problem by making infrastructure decisions that support sprawl, requiring expensive extension of roads and utilities?

According to the New York state legislature the answer is no. Last month the state passed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, which seeks to align state infrastructure investments with smart growth principles for a more efficient and sustainable use of funds.

The bill, which amends the state’s Environmental Conservation Law, requires state agencies to comply “to the extent practical” with specified smart growth criteria as they prioritize infrastructure projects, including:

  • Advancing projects in already-developed areas and projects consistent with local governments’ plans for development.
  • Prioritizing projects related to existing infrastructure over expansion.
  • Protecting New York’s natural and historic resources.
  • Fostering mixed land use, compact development, and affordable housing near jobs.
  • Providing mobility through transportation choices and reducing automobile dependency.
  • Coordinating planning among government jurisdictions
  • Ensuring predictability in land use and building codes.

The bill specifies that all government agencies designated as “State Infrastructure Agencies” (those that do the bulk of infrastructure planning and spending, including transportation agencies and development agencies) establish a smart growth advisory committee to evaluate agency projects based on the criteria.  The committees must include environmental and community stakeholders.

According to Peter Fleischer, Executive Director of Empire State Future, “It’s a significant advance for Smart Growth principles, fiscal rectitude, and better land use practices in New York.” Empire State Future and their coalition played a crucial role in the passage of the legislation.

Senator Suzi Oppenheimer of Westchester and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo sponsored the bill. You can view the legislation here.