Partnership for Sustainable Communities celebrates three years of groundbreaking interagency collaboration


Above: A rendering of neighborhood design for Ranson, WV. Ranson has received support from HUD, DOT and EPA to serve as a national model for how small rural cities on the fringe of a major metropolitan area can foster sustainable economic development, transit, and community livability through targeted and strategic planning and infrastructure investments. Image via Ranson Renewed.

In the three years since the Obama Administration announced the groundbreaking Partnership for Sustainable Communities – a directive which coordinates efforts across the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – the innovative and effective program has helped hundreds of communities across the country address economic development, transportation infrastructure, public health and environmental concerns through through grants and direct assistance.

“Even after only three years, the Partnership has proven its unquestionable value,” says Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson. “Working together, the agencies are more efficient and more effective at enabling American communities to respond to the critical challenges they’re facing in today’s economy and in the years of growth ahead.”

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Partnership in the News: Ranson, West Virginia Unanimously Adopts New Plan and Zoning for Future Growth

At a recent meeting of the Ranson City Council, members unanimously approved proposals that were two years in the making, adopting a new Comprehensive Plan and zoning code that will guide growth and development in the area for years to come. In all, 640 acres of Old Town Ranson and 1,000 acres of greenfield properties will be rezoned. Ranson, a rural town on the edge of the Baltimore-Washington region and the recipient of a HUD Community Challenge grant through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, is starting to create a comprehensive plan for regional growth.

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Momentum Continues in the States

Though all eyes have been on federal transportation policy the last few weeks, states have continued to push forward with their Complete Streets efforts. Bills have been introduced in West Virginia and Rhode Island, and several states with Complete Streets policies in place move ahead with implementation.

Complete Streets

Smart growth news – September 20

Top federal urban programs face the ax
New Urban Network, September 19, 2011
Smart Growth America alerted its members today that funding for the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities is in imminent danger of being discontinued.

Federal Support for Smart Planning Is on the Line Tomorrow
Streetsblog, September 19, 2011
Tomorrow, a Senate panel will vote on two budget bills for FY2012, one of which is for transportation and housing programs. The draft of the bill isn’t available until after the subcommittee markup tomorrow, but Smart Growth America is calling attention to the fact that it’s important to make sure the bill includes funding for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the partnership between USDOT, the EPA, and HUD.

How a small community is becoming greener – with help from some important friends
NRDC Switchboard, September 19, 2011
The small city of Ranson, West Virginia – population about 4000 – has taken some very important steps toward a more sustainable future. In particular, it is cleaning up its contaminated sites; reconceiving its streets and stormwater management; and encouraging walkable, in-town redevelopment, all at the same time. That Ranson had the initiative to do this is immensely significant, since we need more and better examples of green initiatives in small, rural communities. But just as significant is that none of this would be possible without the assistance of the federal government’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

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Gov. Glendening to kickoff planning workshop in Ranson, WV

With help from grants from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the City of Ranson, WV, will gather city officials, residents, business leaders and a team of international consultants for a weeklong workshop to help improve the town’s economic development, transit options and community livability through strategic community planning and infrastructure improvements.

Governor Parris Glendening, President of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, will deliver the keynote address at the kickoff event for the weeklong planning workshop at 7 PM on Sept. 8, 2011 at Washington High School. Gov. Glendening will be joined by federal officials from DOT, EPA and HUD, and the meeting is open to the public.

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West Virginia capital will finally have a town square thanks to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities

In the heart of Charleston, West Virginia’s downtown is Slack Plaza. Located near the city’s main transit hub and Charleston’s central business district, the concrete-heavy plaza with more parking spots than park benches has attracted more crime than consumers.

But thanks to a Greening America’s Capitals grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Slack Plaza will one day become a walkable green space that connects important business districts and downtown to transit.

The EPA recently released design plans for Charleston’s Slack Plaza that would make the plaza more inviting to pedestrians. EPA’s project team and landscape architects Origin 4 Design also came up with a design for the plaza that include more green space and permeable pavement; a projection screen for art, movies, or public gathering events; plenty of comfortable seating with ample shade; and LED lighting.

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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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National Green Infrastructure Conference (Feb. 23-25, 2011)

The Inaugural 2011 National Green Infrastructure Conference is a gathering of policy-makers, practitioners, and on-the-ground implementers of green infrastructure practices and design from around the country. This is the first official conference of the National Green Infrastructure Community of Practice. Program Highlights: Hear nationally recognized speakers from across the country discuss key elements for success … Continued

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