TDOT Commissioner John Schroer on building an even better transportation system in Tennessee

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.

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Analysis highlights opportunities to improve Tennessee’s transportation system, make best use of limited financial resources

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has partnered with Smart Growth America to increase its efficiency and ensure the greatest possible return on Tennessee’s transportation investments. As a result, TDOT has compiled a series of recommendations designed to pin down areas for improvement, prioritize projects and streamline processes.

“Transportation investments are invaluable to driving economic recovery and prosperity across Tennessee,” says TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “But as this report shows, we cannot be limited to old ways of doing business. We must enable and encourage more flexible, innovative and lower-cost solutions to state’s transportation needs. Prioritizing and designing projects to add the most value for their cost is smart, common sense policy in a time of fiscal constraint, and all Tennesseans stand to benefit from an even more effective Department of Transportation.”

The analysis, Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, revealed TDOT currently has nine times more projects in its work plan than it has funding. As a result, some beneficial projects currently run the risk of falling through the cracks, while the service intent of others might be equally fulfilled through a less expensive solution.

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A view from the river: How the city of Nashville brought a neglected natural asset back to life


Cumberland Park, on Nashville, Tennessee’s Cumberland River waterfront. Photo courtesy of the Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

Nashville, Tennessee’s Cumberland River has long been viewed as an industrial thoroughfare for barges to transport cargo. But as the city looked to improve its downtown in the 1980s, it came to realize that the riverfront could be an incredible asset to its revitalization efforts.

“Riverfront revitalization got started about 25 years ago when we began to realize that the city had turned its back on the river,” said Rick Bernhardt, a Planning Executive at the City of Nashville.

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National Brownfields Coalition ramps up outreach to Congress during 2013 Appropriations process


Cumberland Park on Nashville, TN’s waterfront, transformed a former industrial area into a 6.5 acre nature-inspired play space that gets kids and parents moving. It is an excellent example of brownfield redevelopment in action. Photo via Inhabit.com.

As Congress considers the federal budget for fiscal year 2013, the National Brownfields Coalition is working to support several brownfields-related federal programs. These programs include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields program, as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 108 loan guarantee authority, its Sustainable Communities program, and the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) program.

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Memphis, TN Aerotropolis holds forum on new economic and redevelopment strategy

Memphis, Tennessee, a HUD Community Challenge grantee, held a forum last week to re-energize its regional economic and redevelopment strategy, which promises to generate over 1,500 new jobs with over $500 million worth of investment. 60 public, private, and non-profit groups are working together to bolster the regional job market, rehabilitate vacant and blighted housing, and improve transportation opportunities.

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Smart Growth America Visits Middle Tennessee to Learn about Quality Growth Best Practices

Smart Growth America Visits Middle Tennessee from CRT on Vimeo.

Crossposted from Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT) recently hosted a network of quality growth experts from across the country to learn about successful quality growth models and best practices in Middle Tennessee. Participants from San Francisco to Boston learned about CRT’s successful model of collaborative leadership that is creating positive quality growth outcomes in the region. On the ground tours in Nashville, Franklin, and Leiper’s Fork, combined with presentations by local and state leaders, demonstrated how successful community revitalization and conservation efforts are supporting Middle Tennessee’s place-based economies through tourism and agriculture, and music.

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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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New report reveals smart transportation spending creates jobs, grows the economy

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to win the future. To rebuild America, he said, we will aim to put “more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.”

A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes states’ investments in infrastructure to determine whether they made the best use of their spending based on job creation numbers. Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation evaluates how successful states have been in creating jobs with their flexible $26.6 billion of transportation funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Those results should guide governors and other leaders in revitalizing America’s transportation system, maximizing job creation from transportation dollars and rebuilding the economy.

According to data sent by the states to Congress, the states that created the most jobs were the ones that invested in public transportation projects and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that spent their funds predominantly building new roads and bridges created fewer jobs.

As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains, investments in transportation create jobs in the short term and longer term economic prosperity too:

Injecting money into transportation projects, the thinking goes, is an especially potent jobs-creation tool because it not only puts construction workers and contractors to work quickly, it also lays the groundwork for future economic growth and development. Obama predicted the transportation money alone would put hundreds of thousands of workers on the job.

As “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus” explains, not all transportation projects reap these benefits equally:

[S]tates spent more than a third of the money on building new roads—rather than working on public transportation and fixing up existing roads and bridges. The result of the indiscriminate spending? States missed out on potentially thousands of new jobs—and bridges, roads, and overpasses around the country are still crumbling. Meanwhile, the states that did put dollars toward public transportation were richly rewarded: Each dollar used on transit was 75 percent more effective at putting people to work than a dollar used for highway work.

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New report: State transportation decisions could save money and reduce carbon emissions

Download the ReportA new report released today by Smart Growth America and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that transportation policies in every state could save money and reduce carbon emissions by making smarter decisions with state funds.

In “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” SGA and NRDC found that current transportation policies in almost all 50 states either fail to curb carbon emission rates or, in some cases, actually increase emissions. This contradiction between state policies and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions means not only that many states are missing opportunities to protect clean air; it means they are missing economic opportunities as well.

In a press conference this morning, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening remarked:

Transportation makes up an enormous proportion of our national economy and our environmental impact: it must be front and center as we think about how to get the most out of our public investments. The states that rose to the top in this report, California, Maryland and New Jersey, are there because they are meeting the challenge to innovate.

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