Policy: Here's to 2007, Bring on 2008!

As we usher out 2007 and look to 2008, here are a few recent victories from the policy front — some of which were finalized in just the last few weeks.

EPA Smart Growth funding restored

There won’t be coal in the EPA Smart Growth office’s stocking this year. Though the program had been threatened with a big budget cut, Congress passed an appropriations bill this week that fully funds the invaluable program.

For those of you who made calls or signed letters calling on Congress to protect the Smart Growth Program’s funding, thank you! Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Congressman Norm Dicks (WA), as well as their appropriations staff, deserve much of the thanks for their work to block these funding cuts.

As most of you know, the EPA Smart Growth Program conducts cutting edge research, provides technical assistance to communities, and coordinates the Smart Growth Network, bringing together a diverse set of groups invested in the issue. Moving forward, we plan to push for an expansion of the Smart Growth Program so that more communities can benefit from their critical work.

Read more about the EPA program in an op-ed by Governor Parris Glendening, and in this older post about the success of the program.

Harmful FTA rule stopped in its ‘tracks’

The funding package passed by Congress this week, currently awaiting President Bush’s signature, also includes a provision that will stop the Federal Transit Administration’s attempt to make it harder for transit projects to obtain federal funding. FTA’s proposed changes would have reduced both the quality and quantity of transit projects by diverting funding to toll lanes and undervaluing the potential economic benefits of transit projects.

The next step will be working to develop the next federal vision for transportation to move us into the 21st century, replacing the 1950’s vision for the now-completed interstate system. The hard work will begin in 2008 as SGA and many other groups forge ahead on a new transportation bill to replace the current bill that expires in 2009.

Complete Streets gaining momentum

More than 50 states, regions, or localities have passed complete streets policies, making huge strides in the effort to make sure that new streets (and old ones) are designed with all users in mind. Working at the state and local level for these crucial changes is where the rubber meets the road, no pun intended, but a huge step could be taken in early 2008, when federal complete streets legislation is expected to be introduced. In what we hope will be a positive step in that direction, the energy bill that was signed by President Bush this week includes a “Sense of Congress” supporting “complete streets,” — basically representing a statement of support for the concept.

The National Complete Streets Coalition and other advocates will be hard at work in 2008 to turn that support into tangible federal action on this pressing issue.

We’ll be on hiatus here at the SGA blog until 2008. Thanks again for your ongoing support, and happy holidays!

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