On Friday, Smart Growth America participated in a webinar to highlight our new resource for state transportation officials, released recently in partnership with the State Smart Transportation Initiative.
State Departments of Transportation
The corner of Bull and Perry Streets in Savannah, Georgia, features several Complete Streets features. Photo by Ken Lund, via Flickr.
September 20, 2012 marked a significant day for the Complete Streets movement: the day the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) adopted a Complete Streets policy.
That policy is the product of years of work done by the state’s Complete Streets supporters, including Georgia Bikes, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the cities of Atlanta, Decatur, and Roswell; several transit agencies, and leaders within GDOT. Gerald Ross, GDOT’s Chief Engineer, coordinated a policy task force and collaborated with several stakeholder groups. The comprehensive final policy calls for the Department to “routinely incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit (user and transit vehicle) accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects as a means for improving mobility, access, and safety for the traveling public.”
Faced with revenue shortfalls and shrinking budgets, state transportation officials can employ a wide range of innovative transportation reforms to improve service while making the most of limited funding, according to a new policy and practice report from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative.
The Innovative DOT: A handbook of policy and practice surveys best practices nationally and takes stock of the ways in which state Departments of Transportation can provide taxpayers and travelers with a better return on their investments and better accessibility to destinations.
“Fundamentally, it’s about looking at all the ways to solve a problem so you can pick the one that provides the most benefits for the least cost—which is essential with budgets so tight,” says Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Transportation is not an end in and of itself — rather, it’s a path to our nation’s economic prosperity and to a better quality of life for all Americans. Adopting this mindset changes the focus from delivering projects to delivering outcomes.”
The Innovative DOT is broken into eight focus areas, but a number of common themes run through the report. Increasing collaboration between state agencies and local partners, breaking down government silos, “right-sizing” transportation projects, investing in multi-modal solutions and streamlining processes are some of the primary ways state DOTs are extracting more value from limited funds.
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer is part of the dedicated team working to make Tennessee’s transportation system more efficient and a better value for Tennessee taxpayers. As part of our new analysis, Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, released in partnership with the Tennessee DOT, Commissioner Schroer writes an open letter to Tennesseans on how and why the department is working to improve its services. From the report:
Dear Fellow Tennesseans:
It is critical that our state continues to provide better services and infrastructure to our citizens and businesses, and more importantly in a financially responsible manner. I also recognize that the services provided by our transportation system are absolutely critical to sustaining and growing our state’s economy. It is therefore essential that all of us plan, build and operate our transportation system in a manner that balances the needs of rural and urban areas, businesses and communities, and preserves our way of life.
While we are all concerned about maintaining the current infrastructure at an acceptable level, we must also wisely use our limited funding sources to provide a transportation system that is efficient, dependable and safe for all users of the system. TDOT is focused on a planning a statewide, multimodal transportation system that enables both rural and urban communities to grow and prosper taking into account business needs, access to jobs, access to freight ports and airports, needs of transit riders, bicyclists, pedestrians, tourism and quality of life.
A new report out today from Smart Growth America analyzes how all 50 states invested their flexible transportation funds from 2009’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The report examines what projects each state used its funds for, and whether those projects created as many jobs as possible.
Transportation projects create jobs in the short term but can also create the foundation for a stronger economy in the long term – particularly if those projects repair existing roadways or create public transportation options. As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains:
It’s not enough just to inject money into infrastructure, because not all transportation funding is created equal—or at least, it doesn’t create jobs at an equal rate. As any infrastructure policy wonk can tell you, money spent on fixing up existing systems or building mass transit delivers more jobs, and faster, than building new highways.
Smart Growth America’s new report found that many states didn’t invest their funds this way and in doing so missed a significant opportunity to create more jobs. As a companion to that report, Smart Growth America has released state-specific recommendations for states looking for ways to improve their transportation investments.