Struggles for rural transit agencies show that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to public transportation are not limited to big cities.
EPA Brownfields funds helped transform the site of a former auto body repair shop into a neighborhood market in an underserved community in Greenville, SC. Photo via.
With sweeping bipartisan support, last week the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to help communities across the country clean up and redevelop contaminated land. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), one of the champions of the bill, urged his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.
Smart Growth America’s National Brownfields Coalition hosted a breakfast at the 2013 Brownfields Conference that brought together more than 120 members and guests working on federal brownfields issues.
To open the event, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) welcomed guests with a video message about the importance of brownfields redevelopment and its success across the country. Senator Inhofe is a lead sponsor of the BUILD Act, a bill in Congress that would help communities turn abandoned land back into vibrant spaces by reauthorizing the federal Brownfields program.
The Mayo Hotel. Via.
Once the jewel of the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Mayo Hotel fell into neglect and disrepair in the late 20th century. With the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield program, the Mayo Hotel has now reclaimed its title as the “Grand Lady of Tulsa.”
In 1925, John and Cass Mayo completed construction of what would become a destination for many notable guests throughout the hotel’s first life, including President John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley. The 18-story, 600 room hotel exemplified modern luxury during Oklahoma’s oil renaissance; ceiling fans were outfitted in every room and the hotel boasted Tulsa’s first running ice water.
With the help of a $175,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Tulsa, Oklahoma is in the final stages of a brownfield redevelopment plan that includes six properties throughout the city. The grant will help Tulsa clean up the sites and thus serve as a catalyst for broader revitalization and redevelopment efforts. On cleaning up one of the former industrial sites, Mayor Dewey Bartlett said:
“This could be a great asset to the city, contributing to the tax rolls and the business community. We just have to get it there.”
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.
A decade ago, many Americans knew Oklahoma City only as the site of one of the worst domestic tragedies in the country’s history. Today, thanks to the policies and initiatives of Mayor Mick Cornett and his administration, Oklahoma City is experiencing unprecedented economic growth – and several smart growth strategies have helped make it happen.
Oklahoma City’s gains in recent years are due in large part to the Cornett administration’s concerted – and politically risky, at times – effort to enhance, understand and plan for growth. To add value to Oklahoma City’s downtown, Cornett and his team are pursuing capital improvement programs, supporting development throughout the region, and leveraging projects to attract new businesses and raise the quality of life for residents. Bucking the trend of do-nothing politics, Cornett is a man of progress, getting things done with support from voters and relying on common sense policy objectives.
What makes a city good for business? To get a sense, we looked two prominent business magazines that recently ranked cities all across America for their business climates. Four cities made it to both lists’ top ten: Washington, D.C.; New York City, New York; Austin, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
What do these “best for business cities have in common? They’re all using smart growth strategies.
“Great neighborhoods and great cities are where employees want to be and where businesses want to move,” said Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, “That’s why smart growth strategies are good for economic development – it helps businesses connect with workers and customers.”
Tulsa city leaders met with Environmental Protection Agency staff to discuss beginning the cleanup of a brownfield site for redevelopment. Tulsa’s News Channel 2 reports:
Project organizers have met with citizens for several months, scouting possible sites for cleanup and redevelopment. Three sites have already been designated for cleanup.
“Environmental protection really equals economic growth and development,” said David Lloyd with the EPA. “This is a way for cities to reuse sites, use infrastructure, clean the environment and promote economic development.”
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.