Author Archives: Alex Dodds

Ask USDOT to #MakeMeCount this Bike to Work Day

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Don and his co-pilot asked USDOT to #MakeMeCount last week. Photo by @KostelecPlan.

This Friday, thousands of people across the country will put on their helmets and take to the streets for National Bike to Work Day, an annual event promoting active commuting options and safer streets.

Will you be joining the event? If so, make your ride even more impactful by telling USDOT to #MakeMeCount when it comes to measuring how well a street works.

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Five things to read and share during #InfrastructureWeek

This morning kicked off this year’s Infrastructure Week, a chance for political leaders and advocates to talk about how to make our nation’s roads, bridges, sidewalks, water, and digital infrastructure better for everyone.

Looking for ways to get involved? Here are five things to read and share this week:

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1. Two big moves for safer, more complete streets

Federal Highway Administration has a lot of influence over our nation’s infrastructure, and last week the agency made two big moves to clear the way for states, metro areas, and local communities to use federal dollars to design safer, more complete streets. Read more >>

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2. Mapping structurally deficient bridges

Do you drive across a bridge each day? There’s a good chance it’s structurally deficient. That’s according to The Fix We’re In For, our report about bridge conditions across the country. Find structurally deficient bridges in your area with our interactive map or get an overview of the national findings with this infographic.


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Tell USDOT that #WeAllCount

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If someone takes the bus to work, and no one is around to count them, do they still matter?

We say yes, but the U.S. Department of Transportation seems to disagree.

Last week, USDOT issued a draft rule that will govern how states and metro areas will have to measure and address congestion, along with freight movement and emissions. These new requirements will help measure what America’s transportation dollars are actually buying us—which is great. 

However, the rule as it is currently written would measure success in outdated ways. Using old measures will lead to the continued use of outdated strategies, such as prioritizing fast driving speeds above all other modes of transportation and their associated benefits.

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Your questions answered about “The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2015”

On Tuesday we released our annual analysis of Complete Streets policies from across the country in 2015. As part of the kickoff, we hosted an online webinar all about the new report. The speakers talked about the state of the Complete Streets movement, provided an overview of last year’s policies, detailed Complete Streets components of the FAST Act, and discussed how the top-policy communities of Reading, Little Rock, and Park Forest are taking their Complete Streets work to the next level.

At the end of the event we took questions and answers from listeners. Unfortunately, we were only able to answer a fraction of the questions that were asked. We’ve taken a few minutes here to answer the rest.

Where can I download the new report? Are scores available for all policies adopted in 2015? And are scores available for previous years’ policies?
You can see the full list of all 2015 scores and as well as scores of previous policies in the full report.

Will the webinar slides be available after the presentation?
Yes! You can download the slides, watch a recorded version of the webinar, and see reactions to the event from social media in our recap blog post.

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New and expanded urban development programs included in President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal

promise-zone-camdenPresident Obama in Camden, NJ in May. Camden is one of 13 Promise Zones, a program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would be expanded under the 2017 proposed budget. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, via HUD.

President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2017 federal budget yesterday, and it outlines the President’s lofty political ambitions for the coming year. The proposal focuses on five main goals: continuing the country’s economic and fiscal progress, supporting innovation, creating opportunity for all Americans, national security and global leadership, and improving how government works. Smart growth strategies play an important role in achieving several of those goals — here are some specifics of what the budget would mean for programs related to housing, urban development, and transportation.

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Ohio expected to join the growing ranks of state DOTs choosing to #RepairPriorities

lancaster-ohA 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.

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“Your order is out of stock”

We sent the following email to our subscribers earlier today, and we’re sorry for any confusion it caused! It was meant to be a parody: we do not sell Christmas Village sets, and no order of any kind was processed. If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact us. — Alex Dodds, Communications Director

out-of-stock

Thank you so much for your recent order of a “Subdivision Christmas Village.” Unfortunately, this item is no longer in stock.

We simply were not getting enough orders of this model to continue producing them. Most of our customers seem to prefer the “Walkable Downtown Christmas Village” collection.

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This week: How will the House improve its version of the transportation bill?

Last week the House of Representatives passed its initial version of a multiyear transportation bill. This bill has the potential to make streets safer across the country, help communities build more homes and offices near transit, and give more control of transportation investments to local communities. In order for this to happen, though, the House’s version of the bill needs to improve considerably.

Representatives agree: they’ve filed more than 200 amendments to the current version of the bill. Today the Rules Committee will decide which ones to allow to the floor. And then later this week, the full House will vote on all the amendments and create their final version of the bill.

Make the next transportation bill a forward-looking one: Send a letter to your representative this morning >>

Several amendments under consideration would improve how the bill supports walkable communities served by transit, including:

  • Amendment #18 from Representative Lipinski of Illinois, which would make transit-oriented development (TOD) eligible for RRIF funding.
  • Amendment #21 from Representative DeSaulnier of California, which would improve planning and project selection performance measures and transparency.
  • Amendment #37, also from Representative Lipinski, which expresses the Sense of Congress that TOD is an eligible activity under the RRIF program.
  • Amendment #47 from Representative Schakowsky of Illinois that would require a study and rule on safety standards or performance measures to improve pedestrian safety.


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Where we’re going, we DO need roads — and Congress can make them safer, smarter, and closer to transit

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We might not have trash-powered flying cars in 2015, but we CAN invest in a transportation system of tomorrow. Congress is considering the next federal transportation bill this week — tell them to make it a forward-looking one.

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced their proposal for a new federal transportation bill last week, and Representatives will mark up and vote on the bill in committee tomorrow.

This gives us a small window of time to improve the bill as it stands, and we need your help. Tell your Representative to make the next transportation bill a forward-looking one.

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Newark, NJ; Hamilton, OH; Jackson, TN win 2015 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement from U.S. EPA

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The City of Newark, NJ remediated the site of a former smelting plant to build a new—and now award-winning—park along the Passaic River. Photo via Archpaper.

Three cities have transformed the site of a former smelting plant, a neighborhood destroyed by tornado, and a near-empty historic downtown into vibrant, walkable places. Now, these projects have been recognized with the 2015 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Riverfront Park is the culmination of decades-long work to transform five miles of formerly industrial Passaic riverfront in Newark, NJ. The park’s land was once home to a smelting plant, and sat abandoned and unusable for years. Environmental remediation and an intensive public engagement process have created what will ultimately be 19 acres of parkland and Newark’s first—and so far only—public access to the Passaic River. In this community of color and predominantly low-income area, with few green spaces and a history of industrial pollution, the new park is game-changing. “When I was growing up, we had very few places to play, very few parks,” said Ana Baptista, a Newark resident, in EPA’s video about the project. “My daughters are going to grow up having a relationship to the water and the river that I didn’t have.”

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