Transportation and infrastructure take center stage in President Obama's 2016 budget proposal


President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget yesterday, and if passed, it would be an enormous help to communities looking to grow in better, more economically vibrant ways.

Most notably the proposal includes significant investment in transportation and infrastructure programs (there’s even a photo of a bridge on the cover). Building on the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, the budget proposes $94.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Transportation and sweeping improvements to its programs as part of a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization. That would be a $176 billion increase over the last authorization, and $76 billion more than the four-years of funding proposed in the GROW AMERICA Act last spring.


Rethink Real Estate: Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds

The Parker Ranch installation in Hawaii. Photo by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Earlier this month, Smart Growth America released Federal Involvement in Real Estate, a survey of over 50 federal programs that influence real estate in some way. This post is the second in a series taking a closer look at some of the programs included in that survey. Today’s post is about Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds .

Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) give state and local governments a low-cost financing option to encourage energy conservation.

Funding from the program has been used to retrofit public buildings, to power buildings with renewable energy, and to improve public transit infrastructure. Authorized by Congress as part of the 2008 Energy Improvement and Extension Act, the original legislation allocated $800 million in federal funding to the effort and has since been increased to $3.2 billion as a result of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As of July 2012, about $760 million in allocated funding had been spent. Because QECBs do not have to be spent within a certain time period, a great deal remains untapped.


Building a modern streetcar and a stronger downtown in Tucson, AZ

What do Tucson, Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Providence have in common? They are just a few of up to 40 communities across the country currently planning or building streetcar lines connecting neighborhoods to their downtowns.

Tuscon is the latest city to jump on the streetcar bandwagon. The city’s 3.9 mile, 196.6 million Sun Link streetcar project broke ground earlier this week, and once complete will offer direct, high-capacity transit connections between downtown Tucson, the University of Arizona and the Arizona Health Sciences Center. The project stems from a community partnership of diverse stakeholders, including Arizona’s Congressional delegation, the state’s Regional Transportation Authority, the University of Arizona, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, the city’s business community and neighborhood advocates who all worked together to make the streetcar project a reality.

Support for the project comes from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). TIGER grants are part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration between DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development which coordinates federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money and reduce pollution.