Smart growth news – December 27, 2011

Byram growth plan honored again
New Jersey Herald, December 23, 2011
Spanning from Maine to Washington state, the 15 chosen communities represent major cities, suburban communities, and rural towns, said Smart Growth America Vice President Roger Millar. The 15 selected communities exhibited the strongest interest in and need for smart growth tools, and demonstrated a commitment from local business, community and political leaders to implement local smart growth solutions, according to Millar.

Tacoma Chosen to Receive Smart Growth Assistance
Exit 133 (Wash.), December 23, 2011
Tacoma has been awarded a grant for free assistance from Smart Growth America. Tacoma is one of 15 communities selected out of a pool of close to 90 applications for the free assistance in implementing the principles of smart growth.

PlanMaryland: A Model for State-Level Smart Growth Planning
Streetsblog DC, December 22, 2011
Parris Glendening, former Maryland governor and smart growth leader explained his support for the plan in blog post for Smart Growth America: “I want my grandchildren to enjoy the beauty of Patapsco Valley State Park and the bustling downtown of historic Annapolis. I want them to be able to eat food grown in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and to find a job here. I want Maryland to be a place they will love.”

Top 10 Daily Digits from 2011
Governing, December 23, 2011
69,000: The number of bridges that need major repairs or complete replacement in the United States, according to a Transportation for America report. Reuters reported in March that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that the nation needs to invest $17 billion yearly to improve current bridge conditions.

Housing the Echo Boomers – Next Big Real Estate Opportunity?
Forbes, December 21, 2011
[W]hether Echo Boomers rent or buy, they will need housing, and there are 80 million of them. In other words, recognizing their demographics and preferences will separate the winners from the losers and that has huge financial implications in a generation as large as the Echo Boomers.

Technical assistance

15 communities selected to receive free smart growth technical assistance

A view of downtown Oklahoma City, OK by Flickr user Becky McCray. Oklahoma City is one of 15 communities selected to receive free technical assistance this year.

Smart Growth America is pleased to announce the 15 communities that have been selected to receive this year’s free smart growth technical assistance. Stretching from Maine to Washington State, these communities represent major cities, suburban communities, and rural towns, showing that all types of communities are interested in using smart growth strategies to build stronger local economies, create jobs and improve overall quality of life.

Technical assistance

Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads

Decades of underinvestment in regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing these roads is rising faster than many states can address them. These liabilities are outlined in a new report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, released today, which examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report recommends changes at both the state and federal level that can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.

Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction. That means 57 percent of these funds was spent on only 1 percent of the nation’s roads, while only 43 percent was dedicated to preserving the 99 percent of the system that already existed. As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and costs for taxpayers are going up.

“Federal taxpayers have an enormous stake in seeing that our roads are kept in good condition,” said Erich W. Zimmermann of Taxpayers for Common Sense at a briefing earlier today. “Billions of precious tax dollars were spent to build our highway system, and neglecting repair squanders that investment. Keeping our roads in good condition reduces taxpayers’ future liabilities.”

“Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities,” said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. “Our findings show that in order to bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years – more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation and new capacity combined. As this figure illustrates, state have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and in so doing have created a deficit that is going to take decades to reverse.”

The high cost of poor conditions
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly. Investing too little on road repair increases these future liabilities, and with every dollar spent on new construction many states add to a system they are already failing to keep in good condition.

State and federal leaders can do more to see that highway funds are spent in ways that benefits driver and taxpayers. More information about the high cost of delaying road repair, how states invest their transportation dollars and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report.

Click here to read the full report, state-specific data and view the interactive map.

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New report reveals smart transportation spending creates jobs, grows the economy

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to win the future. To rebuild America, he said, we will aim to put “more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.”

A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes states’ investments in infrastructure to determine whether they made the best use of their spending based on job creation numbers. Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation evaluates how successful states have been in creating jobs with their flexible $26.6 billion of transportation funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Those results should guide governors and other leaders in revitalizing America’s transportation system, maximizing job creation from transportation dollars and rebuilding the economy.

According to data sent by the states to Congress, the states that created the most jobs were the ones that invested in public transportation projects and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that spent their funds predominantly building new roads and bridges created fewer jobs.

As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains, investments in transportation create jobs in the short term and longer term economic prosperity too:

Injecting money into transportation projects, the thinking goes, is an especially potent jobs-creation tool because it not only puts construction workers and contractors to work quickly, it also lays the groundwork for future economic growth and development. Obama predicted the transportation money alone would put hundreds of thousands of workers on the job.

As “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus” explains, not all transportation projects reap these benefits equally:

[S]tates spent more than a third of the money on building new roads—rather than working on public transportation and fixing up existing roads and bridges. The result of the indiscriminate spending? States missed out on potentially thousands of new jobs—and bridges, roads, and overpasses around the country are still crumbling. Meanwhile, the states that did put dollars toward public transportation were richly rewarded: Each dollar used on transit was 75 percent more effective at putting people to work than a dollar used for highway work.

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New report: State transportation decisions could save money and reduce carbon emissions

Download the ReportA new report released today by Smart Growth America and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that transportation policies in every state could save money and reduce carbon emissions by making smarter decisions with state funds.

In “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” SGA and NRDC found that current transportation policies in almost all 50 states either fail to curb carbon emission rates or, in some cases, actually increase emissions. This contradiction between state policies and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions means not only that many states are missing opportunities to protect clean air; it means they are missing economic opportunities as well.

In a press conference this morning, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening remarked:

Transportation makes up an enormous proportion of our national economy and our environmental impact: it must be front and center as we think about how to get the most out of our public investments. The states that rose to the top in this report, California, Maryland and New Jersey, are there because they are meeting the challenge to innovate.

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