Partnership in the News: Officials Visit Indianapolis, IN

On Friday, January 11th, officials from three federal agencies visited Indianapolis, IN for a first-hand perspective at how federal funding and provisions have benefited local environmental and redevelopment projects.

During the visit Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was enthusiastic about several innovative development projects being done in the city, including brownfield remediation efforts and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The Cultural Trail is a multi-use path that connects neighborhoods, Cultural Districts and entertainment amenities and the Indianapolis ‘bike hub’ to help make bicycle commuting easier and more viable. The award-winning 8-mile path encircles downtown Indianapolis, passing through the city’s visitor and business district, its arts and cultural hubs, and several neighborhoods.

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Smart growth stories: Local planning for global competitiveness in Carmel, IN

A snapshot of Carmel’s City Center. Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s office.

Carmel, IN wasn’t always the best place to live. As a suburb contiguous to Indianapolis, it faced the same challenges to development that many suburbs near large cities confront.

However, under the leadership of Mayor Jim Brainard, Carmel has managed to become the kind of place that appeals to families and businesses alike. By anchoring its redevelopment efforts around an Arts & Business District and a City Center, Carmel has found a way to boost economic development while bettering quality of life.

“We had to figure out how we were going to compete,” Brainard says. “We realized that if we wanted to succeed, we had to make Carmel a place that the best and brightest – from around the country and around the world – would want to live in. And we had to do it through the built environment.”

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Momentum Continues in the States

Though all eyes have been on federal transportation policy the last few weeks, states have continued to push forward with their Complete Streets efforts. Bills have been introduced in West Virginia and Rhode Island, and several states with Complete Streets policies in place move ahead with implementation.

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Four redevelopment projects in Indianapolis could spark community resurgence

Vacant properties are not only an eyesore but also a drain on community development and identity.

In Indianapolis, four major redevelopment projects are in the works to turn unproductive properties into places that are good economic investments and will help rejuvenate the community. Chris Sikich of the Indianapolis Star reports on these four projects that model smart growth:

On the edge of an eye-catching Downtown, they are among the eyesores — the empty Bush Stadium, the idled GM stamping plant, the crumbling Keystone Towers and a no-man’s land near Eli Lilly and Co. headquarters.

In the past year, Mayor Greg Ballard has announced plans to redevelop those sites into new neighborhoods, with homes within walking distance of jobs, restaurants and stores.

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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, 5/20/11

Census finds Pittsburgh is growing younger
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 2011
“The unusual drop in the city’s median age was among the findings in the U.S. Census Bureau’s release today of new information from last year’s population count. For both the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, the number of elderly residents as well as their percentage of the overall population are on the decline.”

Gary, Ind., struggles with population loss
USA Today, May 19, 2011
“The 2010 Census crystallized Gary’s decline: The population, which peaked at 178,320 in 1960, is now 80,294. From 2000 through last year’s count, Gary lost 22% of its residents. The city’s unemployment rate in February was 9.8%. Gary — like Detroit, which lost 25% of its people in the past decade — faces tough questions: What is the best way to shrink a city? How can city government provide adequate services as its tax base contracts? How can new employers and residents be wooed to a place known more for blight than for opportunity?”

Sound Transit to invest $2.1M in rail,bus ridership research
Seattle Times, May 19, 2011
“Sound Transit will spend as much as $2.1 million for consultants to conduct market research, in hopes of boosting its rail and bus ridership. ‘Finding out what will get people out of their cars and into our services is going to require some deep research and talking to a lot of people in our region,’ said communications Director Ron Klein.”

Poll: Gas prices causing hardship for 4 in 10 Americans
Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2001
“With gasoline prices hovering at $4 a gallon nationally, many Americans are making tough choices: scaling back summer vacations, driving less or ditching the car altogether. Some seniors are choosing a tank of gas over their prescriptions. An Associated Press-GfK poll shows the share of Americans who say increases in the price of gasoline will cause serious financial hardship for them or their family in the next six months now tops 4 in 10. Overall in the poll, 71 percent said rising prices will cause some hardship for them and their family, including 41 percent who called it a “serious” hardship. Just 29 percent said rising prices are not causing a negative impact on their finances.”

Never Too Old To Bike To Work (video)
Grist, May 19, 2011
“Gilbert admits to being in her “high 70s,” and she has been biking since she was a 7-year-old in France. She and her friends didn’t have phones, so if they wanted to talk, they hopped on their bikes and went and found each other.”

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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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