The most productive state departments of transportation are those that have come to grips with the fact that moving cars fast all the time is hard to square with most of their other stated priorities, whether improved safety, more mobility, or reduced costs.
Over the last two years, Smart Growth America has been working to help a small group of state departments of transportation question and assess the underlying assumptions that lead many states toward giant highway solutions for every transportation problem.
DOTs across the country are looking for innovative and flexible ways to meet users’ needs in ways that cost less to build and maintain. Accelerating Practical Solutions is an opportunity for six state DOTs to win a one-day workshop with our expert transportation staff.
A road crew repaving Main Street in Lancaster, OH. Photo by Robert Batina via Flickr.
In 2008, just 6 percent of roads in Ohio were listed as being in “poor” condition. By 2011, though, that number had ballooned to 20 percent — the state was failing to keep up with needed repairs. Yet during that same time Ohio spent millions of dollars building new roads, taking funds away from repair work and adding to the state’s future repair burden.
Many states across the country are in similar predicaments. As Smart Growth America detailed in our 2014 report Repair Priorities, between 2009 and 2011 states collectively spent $20.4 billion annually to build new roads and add new lanes — projects that accounted for just 1 percent of their total road system. During that same time, states spent just $16.5 billion annually repairing and preserving the other 99 percent of their roads. This despite the fact that roads conditions were deteriorating faster than many states could fix them.
“Crazy ideas” in action: Complete Streets features in downtown West Jefferson, NC.
On Tuesday we hosted a panel discussion about Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, new research from the National Complete Streets Coalition on the outcomes of Complete Streets projects across the country. If you missed the event, read our full recap and watch the recorded webinar.
Dean Ledbetter, a Senior Engineer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), joined the panel to discuss the Complete Streets project in downtown West Jefferson, NC. There were so many questions about working with transportation engineers, and for Dean specifically, that we said down with him for a follow-up conversation.
Alex Dodds: You mentioned that you initially thought that Complete Streets was a “crazy idea,” but that eventually you changed your mind. What convinced you?
Dean Ledbetter: I don’t know if there was one specific thing. I think I had to go through the [Federal Highway Administration’s] training several times for the reality of something new to overpower the existing “knowledge” I had about what my job was supposed to be. And I have to admit that we only went to those classes to get the free Professional Development Hours not because we really expected to learn anything useful.
Earlier this month we released the third edition of The Innovative DOT: A handbook of policy and practice. The new and improved guide includes tools for state DOTs working to improve safety, alleviate congestion, improve system reliability, accelerate project delivery, preserve valuable assets, reduce environmental impacts, and enhance economic opportunities—all in an era of constrained budgets.
We want to make it as easy as possible to use the new guide, so Smart Growth America and our co-authors the State Smart Transportation Initiative are hosting a free webinar all about it.
Join us tomorrow, January 27, 2015 at 3:00 PM EST to learn about new features of the 2015 edition and to discuss how transportation professionals have applied the manual. Hear from panelists Billy Fields, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas State University; Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America and Director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute; Adetokunbo “Toks” Omishakin, Deputy Commissioner/Chief of Environment & Planning at the Tennessee DOT; and Chris Spahr, SSTI Project Assistant. The speakers will highlight new features in the third edition, and how state DOTs across the country are already putting the manual into action.
Innovative approaches can help transportation officials succeed in the face of these challenges, and an updated resource from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) outlines how.
The third edition of The Innovative DOT, released today, provides 34 strategies that transportation officials can use to position their agencies for success in a new era of constrained budgets. Originally released in 2012 and developed with input from top transportation professionals and agency staff from around the nation, the handbook documents many of the innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied. The second edition was released in January 2014, and provided three additional tools and 20 new case studies.
“State DOTs across the country are using the tools in this guidebook with great success,” said Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America. “The third edition contains even more ideas for how DOT staff can lead and improve their agencies’ work.”
Yesterday we unveiled Repair Priorities 2014: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads. The release featured an online discussion with leaders from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, as well as state transportation department representatives from Vermont, Michigan and Tennessee. Panelists shared insights and strategies for how states are managing their road repair needs in a time of constrained budgets by using tools like asset management practices; focusing repair investments on the most heavily used roads; setting aggressive targets for pavement conditions; and using cost-benefit analysis to prioritize road investments.
If you were not able to join us for yesterday’s event, an archived recording is now available.
|Watch the archived webinar|
|Download the presentation (PDF)|
Joining yesterday’s event were Roger Millar, Vice President, Smart Growth America; Steve Ellis, Vice President, Taxpayers for Common Sense; Rich Tetreault, Director of Program Development, Vermont Agency on Transportation, Polly Kent, Administer, Intermodal Policy Division, Michigan Department of Transportation; and Steve Allen, Strategic Transportation Investments Director, Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Thank you to everyone who participated. The event provided valuable insights for how states can improve road conditions for drivers and the financial outlook of America’s DOTs at the same time.
A crew from the Virginia Department of Transportation fills potholes. Photo by VDOT via Flickr.
How much would your state need to spend to repair its roads? Most likely the answer to that question is “a lot.” In some cases, state DOTs could spend their entire annual budget on repair and maintenance and still have work left to do. So why are many states making the problem even worse by continuing to spend scarce transportation dollars expanding their road networks?
In two weeks, Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense will address this question with the release of the 2014 edition of Repair Priorities.
Innovative approaches can help transportation officials overcome both these sets of challenges, and an updated resource from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) outlines how.
The second edition of The Innovative DOT, released today, provides 34 strategies transportation officials can use to position their agencies for success in a new era of constrained budgets. Originally released in 2012 and developed with input from top transportation professionals and agency staff from around the nation, the handbook documents many of the innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied.
“America’s transportation system is vital for economic growth and to our everyday quality of life,” said Roger Millar, Vice President of Smart Growth America. “Faced with tight budgets, transportation agencies are taking new approaches to managing our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The resources in The Innovative DOT encourage smarter investments and a more strategic approach to help deliver the best possible performance given our current fiscal situation.”