Congressional hearing on Safe Streets Act highlights policy flexibility and safety

“My home district of Sacramento continues to bear witness to too many pedestrian accidents,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) last week. “The needless and avoidable accidents are vivid reminders of why we need Complete Streets policies.”

Congresswoman Matsui made these comments at a briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday hosted by the National Complete Streets Coalition. Matsui was there to introduce the Safe Streets Act of 2013, co-sponsored by Congressman David Joyce (R-OH). As Congresswoman Matsui explained to the crowd, “It is far past time for the federal government to step and show it too is committed to improving the safety of our communities.”

Complete Streets

Planning for economic and fiscal health in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC
Downtown Charlotte, NC. Photo by James Willamor via Flickr.

Smart Growth America will be in Charlotte, NC next to speak with city officials there about how development strategies can benefit the city’s finances and its economy.

Charlotte residents are invited to join the discussion at an introductory presentation on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 from 6:00–8:00 PM at the UNC Charlotte Auditorium, Uptown Campus, 320 East 9th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202.

Technical assistance

Smart growth in the Smoky Mountains – Graham County, NC to host strategy workshops


Photo via Graham County Chamber of Information.

Tucked in a corner of the Smoky Mountains, Graham County, North Carolina is a rural community known for it’s abundant natural beauty, windy mountain roads, local produce and artisans. As county residents look toward the future of their community, Smart Growth America will assist Graham County in how to utilize their existing assets to ensure a healthy, economically productive place in which to live, work and play.

On April 2 and 3, 2013, Graham County officials and local residents will meet with representatives from Smart Growth America as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. The workshops aim to find innovative strategies for improving the county’s safety, health and economy through the development of a resident led action plan for future growth.

Technical assistance

Charlotte, Tampa to showcase smart growth features at this year's political conventions


The Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay, FL, overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk, will host this year’s Republican National Convention. Photo by Flickr user Judy Malley.

Republicans and Democrats alike will be enjoying the benefits of smart growth strategies later this summer as both parties prepare for their respective conventions.

The Republican National Convention will take place in late August at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a 670,000 sq. ft. arena that’s normally home to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena overlooks the scenic Hillsborough River and the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile riverfront walkway that connects the Forum with restaurants, shops and parks in the area.

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Partnership in the News: GroWNC Inspires "Regional Thinking" in North Carolina Counties

The Smoky Mountain News reported recently that 5 North Carolina counties are coming together with a project called GroWNC, which aims to get the entire Western NC region to think collectively about economic development strategies that include sustainability. GroWNC is currently holding meetings in all 5 counties- Haywood, Transylvania, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison- that will gain feedback on these economic development goals as well as information about residents and their concerns. Participants are being asked questions ranging from what they love most about Western North Carolina to individual demographics to their opinion on the project.

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Western North Carolina looks to harness regional potential

It’s thousands of miles from more recognized hubs of smart growth activity like Seattle and San Francisco, but Western North Carolina has emerged as one of the nation’s leading examples of what is possible when regional planning and economic development strategies find common ground.

Thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, government officials, local citizens and business leaders in the region are taking control of their communities’ future. If recent initiatives meet with the success they promise, an area that was once an afterthought even for many North Carolinians might become a staging ground for new businesses at the forefront of the state’s economy.

“I want my kids and grandkids to have a future here,” said Mark Burrows, Planning and Economic Development Director for Transylvania County. “Even before we knew what sustainability was, this is what we have always wanted…a place where there are jobs and people can walk to work.”

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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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Cutting costs through smarter growth in Raleigh, NC

In a piece today in TIME about growth and development in Raleigh, NC, Mitch Silver discusses the financial burdens many towns bear to support sparse development. To help reduce these costs, Raleigh has a comprehensive plan to guide economic growth and public and private investment in the city for the next 20 years. The plan is meant to help Raleigh “promote sustainability while maintaining and enhancing the natural and architectural assets of the City and promoting the social and economic welfare of its residents.”

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First Annual Smart Growth America's 2011 Leadership Awards goes to North Carolina leaders

For leading the way with smart growth policy making that will make North Carolina neighborhoods even greater places to live, Smart Growth America is pleased to recognize North Carolina State Senator Floyd B. McKissick and Representative Jennifer Weiss with Smart Growth America’s 2011 Leadership Award.

In 2010, Senator McKissick and Representative Weiss sponsored legislation to establish an innovative Sustainable Communities Task Force in North Carolina. Excitingly, the legislation passed – making North Carolina one of the latest states to recognize the connections between cross-agency governance at the state level, coordination with stakeholders at the local level, and sustainable communities on the ground.

As co-chairs of the Legislative Study Commission on Urban Growth and Infrastructure, McKissick and Weiss helped develop and refine the Sustainable Communities Task Force legislation from the earliest stages. The legislation lays out six guiding smart growth principles, similar to the Livability Principles of the federal HUD, DOT, and EPA Sustainable Communities Partnership.

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