How is the FAST Act being implemented? Complete Streets are among its successes.

At the end of 2015, Congress passed a five-year $305 billion federal transportation bill — The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. It was the first transportation bill to ever include Complete Streets language, and the first law enacted in more than 10 years to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation.

The Complete Streets provisions in the FAST Act represent a great step forward in the effort to make streets across the country safer for everyone who uses them. Notably, the bill requires National Highway System roadway designs to take into account access for all modes of transportation. It also makes NACTO’s Urban Design Guide one of the standards for when the U.S. Department of Transportation designs roads, and it permits local governments to use their own adopted design guide if they are the lead project sponsor, even if it differs from state guidelines.

Complete Streets

Evaluating land use codes and transportation performance in Oklahoma City

A view of downtown Oklahoma City. By Flickr user Travel Aficionado.

Oklahoma City was designed around driving, but community members and city officials want to create a street network that allows for a variety of transportation options.

City officials have been actively pursing new policies that will allow the city to grow in a more efficient and sustainable manner, but they needed help with the technical details that would allow them to tie their new plans to their local setting. Officials asked Smart Growth America to help.

Technical assistance

Smart Growth Stories: A Tale of Three Cities

What kinds of investments allow cities to rebound and jumpstart local economic growth?

Bombed out.

If you were feeling cynical, that’s how you might describe the current state of downtown Reno, Nevada. Take a walk down Virginia Avenue and see what I mean. Go past the forlorn casinos, the shuttered liquor store, and the homeless loitering near the 4th Street bus station. Search in vain for a downtown restaurant or bar that is not attached to a gambling institution. And then, when it is dark, walk in the shadow of the National Bowling Stadium, a building designed for a sport whose own history unfortunately mirrors that of the town in which it stands.

Bombed out.

A few years ago, that’s how you might have described Woodward Avenue in Detroit. People were fleeing the city then, a trend that had continued since the Motor City’s initial decline in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Great old buildings, monuments to a forgotten past, may well have outnumbered the residents and businesses for which they were fashioned. It was the scariest of places – the loneliest of places.

Bombed out.

Almost two decades ago, that’s how you could have literally described part of Oklahoma City. Or as current Mayor Mick Cornett told it at a conference earlier this year, “That’s all people knew about us.”

Each of these places has struggled with decline. But where there is barrenness, there is always a chance at renewal. All across the country, towns are looking to make a comeback. In my role at Smart Growth America, I talk with community leaders and representatives almost every day who ask the same questions. How do we create jobs? How do we attract new residents and new businesses? How do we change our reputation for the better? And then how do we avoid falling down after we’ve gotten back on our feet?

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Smart growth news – January 3, 2012

The bold urban future starts now
Salon, December 31, 2011
In cities in every region of the country, pie-in-the-sky ideas are moving from brainstorm to blueprint to groundbreaking — and 2012 will prove it.

Oklahoma City reaps positive effects of economic development
The Oklahoman, January 1, 2011
“Downtown Oklahoma City experienced significant changes this year (2011), but probably the most impactful was the renovation and grand reopening of the Myriad Gardens,” Jenkins said. “Construction of the Level Apartments and Aloft Hotel in Deep Deuce have really given that area a dense, urban feel, and the launch of the ‘Downtown It!’ advertising campaign increase awareness of all that downtown Oklahoma City has to offer.”

Study: Cities subsidize townships
Oxford Press (Ohio), January 2, 2012
There is an inequity in government subsidies for roads, police protection and other services that township residents receive compared with city residents, though both groups pay the same taxes, a University of Toledo study shows.

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Oklahoma City attracts businesses, gets healthy with smart growth principles

Oklahoma City Mayor Mark Cornett (R) is making his city more attractive to businesses, tackling a public health crisis and he’s using smart growth strategies to get it done. Cornett gained notoriety for tackling Oklahoma City’s obesity epidemic by changing the landscape of the city. After setting a goal in 2008 for the city to lose a million pounds, he passed a massive $777 million “Metropolitan Area Project” in 2009 that made jogging and biking trails, sidewalks and neighborhood parks a priority in downtown development.

The project aimed to make Oklahoma City’s residents healthier, but slimmer figures weren’t Cornett’s sole goal. Mayor Cornett also understood that an obesity epidemic could deter businesses that might consider locating in Oklahoma City. He recently told Next American City, “if I’m a job creator, and I see Oklahoma City on the list of the most obese cities in the country, I’ve got to think: What are my health care costs going to be? What’s my absenteeism rate going to be? Why would I create jobs in a city that doesn’t value health?”

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