EPA announces $76 million in grants to assess and clean up brownfields

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a new series of investments to assess and clean up abandoned industrial and commercial properties across the country. Brownfield grants can serve as vital tools for struggling communities looking to revitalize by providing some of the resources necessary to redevelop contaminated properties, create jobs, and spur local economic growth. This round of EPA grants will include more than $76 million in funds distributed to a number of innovative efforts in communities in 40 states.

The Tamiami Trail Initiative in western Florida is one of these efforts. The Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway (US Highway 41) runs through Sarasota and Manatee counties and is plagued by more than 500 petroleum brownfields and a number of other contaminated properties. The revitalization initiative, which started in 2009, has brought together a diverse group of stakeholders – including government, nonprofits, business groups, environmental consultants, property owners, and community members – to inventory and cleanup petroleum sites along the corridor and help spur economic development opportunities in the process.

EPA has awarded the Sarasota/Manatee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) $1,000,000 to help continue the cleanup and revitalization work already underway along the route.

The Tamiami Trail Initiative is part of a growing trend among communities across the country using a corridor-wide approach to redevelop abandoned and vacant properties contaminated by petroleum and other hazardous chemicals. By planning to remediate a cluster of sites along a given transportation corridor – rather than one at a time – communities like those along the Tamiami Trail are able to create an economy of scale that helps leverage resources and overcome many of the barriers associated with smaller scale revitalization efforts.

For more information about the Tamiami Trail or brownfield grants and revitalization projects, visit EPA.gov.

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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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SGA news clips, April 15, 2011

City, Others to Work on Transit-Hub Development
Wall Street Journal, 4/15/11
New York City will work with several other local governments to revitalize areas around underdeveloped transit hubs, officials announced Thursday. The plans include adding housing and commercial space along commuter rail lines to encourage more public transportation use and to curtail sprawl. The city will join Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties and four cities in Connecticut in the bi-state collaboration.

Highway Funding Is at Risk

Wall Street Journal, 4/14/11
Congress may have to consider a smaller highway-funding bill than initially planned because of a steep drop in revenue from the federal gasoline tax, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Thursday. The Montana Democrat, speaking at a hearing on highway funding, said lawmakers may have to draft a funding bill covering two years instead of six, which effectively would freeze highway-construction funding at existing levels or lead to a decline.

Decision to move EPA offices from KCK to Lenexa seems flawed
Kansas City Star, 4/11/11
When it comes to thinking green, the federal government may be missing the forest for the trees — at least concerning the relocation of the Environmental Protection Agency from downtown Kansas City, Kan., to suburban Lenexa.

Campaign aims to get Southwest Florida biking, carpooling and using public transportation
The News-Press (Fla.), 4/13/11
In an effort to get more people biking, carpooling and using public transportation, Fort Myers, Lee County and the Florida Department of Transportation are launching a campaign that starts today, and spans through Earth Week, ending April 23. The “Taking it to the Streets” campaign encourages employers, community leaders, students, teams and individuals to participate in activities such as organizing or joining a bike club, carpooling to work, organizing transportation competitions and more.

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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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Congressional offices announce some TIGER II awards in advance of official USDOT release

Want to stay on top of this and other federal sustainability news? Subscribe to our email updates or RSS feed using the links in the top right corner! UPDATE 10/20/2010: The TIGER II awards lists have been released! View the capital grant recipients list here, and view the planning recipients list here. In advance of … Continued

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