Author Archives: Alex Dodds

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


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

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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Congress is about to have a key opportunity to make communities more walkable. Will they?


Yesterday, the U.S. Surgeon General launched a new nationwide Call to Action to help Americans be healthier by making walking and physical activity a bigger part of their daily lives.

The event recognized physical activity as one of the nation’s highest health priorities. And as Dr. Murthy explained yesterday, building communities where it is safe and convenient to walk, bike, or wheelchair roll is part of the solution.

Congress is about to have a critical opportunity to take action on this issue. Legislators are currently working on a multiyear federal transportation bill which will shape communities and transportation programs for years to come. As representatives negotiate the bill in the coming weeks, will they prioritize walkable communities?

Tell your Representative to listen to the Surgeon General: Make walkable communities a priority in the next federal transportation bill.

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What if we labeled unwalkable neighborhoods like we do cigarettes?

The Surgeon General of the United States will kick off a new nationwide Call to Action later this morning, aiming to help Americans lead healthier lives—by making walking and physical activity built-in features of more of our neighborhoods.

Over the past decade, scores of research has shown the correlation between physical inactivity and sprawl development. Today, 10 percent of the preventable deaths in America are related to physical inactivity and its related diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes—and communities without safe places to walk are part of the problem. Smart Growth America’s 2003 report Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl was one of the first to examine this issue. Today, the Surgeon General is making it a national health priority.

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Speaking out for smart growth issues leads to a better transportation bill in the Senate

Yesterday, the Senate finally passed its version of a six-year federal transportation bill. As you likely know by now, this bill will have a huge impact on how communities across America grow in the coming years.

We asked you to speak out about a number of issues related to this bill over the last few weeks. And right now, I want to say thank you for stepping up.

Many of the crucial provisions we championed—the Safe Streets Act, TIFIA financing for transit-oriented development, and protection of the TIGER grants program at the U.S. Department of Transportation—were included in the final version of the bill.

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House subcommittee to hold hearing this week on reauthorizing EPA Brownfields program

BEFORE AND AFTER: Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta was previously the site of an Atlantic Steel facility. The EPA’s Brownfields program helped make the redevelopment project possible.

Did you know that every federal dollar spent on brownfields cleanup leverages $17.79 in value for communities? And that redeveloping one acre of contaminated land creates an average of 10 jobs? These benefits don’t stop where the brownfield ends: the value of residential property near brownfield sites can increase anywhere from 5.1 to 12.8 percent when cleanup is complete.

These are just some of the many reasons why brownfields cleanup and redevelopment is a great investment of federal dollars, yet the Brownfields program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not formally authorized in the federal budget. Congress has the power to change that, and this week members of the House of Representatives will examine whether to do make brownfields cleanup an official part of the federal budget.

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What we’re watching: Senate Commerce Committee to mark up six-year transportation bill today

Later today the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is scheduled to mark up the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015 (S. 1732), a proposed six-year transportation reauthorization. As we’ve mentioned here before, the federal transportation bill has huge implications for development across the country. Here’s what we’ll be looking for during today’s proceedings.

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Join us on Thursday for an inside look at transportation reauthorization in Congress


The current federal transportation bill will expire on July 31, 2015. In the coming weeks Congress will negotiate about dozens of programs and debate how to fund billions of dollars worth of projects. What will the current political landscape mean for local transportation projects, Complete Streets, and transit-oriented development?

Join Smart Growth America and Transportation for America for a special open conversation about what’s happening right now in transportation policy this Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 4:00 PM EDT.

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It’s smart growth week in the U.S. Senate

Well, it isn’t really smart growth week in the Senate. But it sure feels that way.

Senate committees will consider three different bills this week that will impact federal housing, transportation, and community development programs.

First, the Environment and Public Works committee will consider the DRIVE Act, the newest version of the federal transportation bill, which will either expand or curtail crucial transit-oriented development and Complete Streets programs. The bill includes several strong points, including making transit-oriented-development eligible for the TIFIA program, and lowering project cost thresholds from $50 million to $10 million. It also requires that all modes of transportation be considered when designing National Highway System projects and improves design standards for all roadways by integrating the NACTO Urban Design Guide into federal design standards. The bill incorporates resilience and system reliability as considerations for regional and statewide transportation and slightly increases the funds provided to local communities and regions by five percent through the Surface Transportation Program, and by fully directing all Transportation Alternative Program funds to locals communities through competition. The bill could do more, and we encourage the Senate to do as much, but this is a solid first draft of the bill.

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