Author Archives: Alex Dodds

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

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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

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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

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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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Watch the recording of the #CoreValues kickoff panel

Yesterday we released new research all about companies that are moving to walkable downtowns. Core Values looks at why companies want to be in walkable places, and what they look for when choosing these locations.

To kick off this research and to hear more about the issues firsthand, we invited representatives from three companies included in our survey to join us in Washington, DC yesterday for a panel discussion. If you weren’t able to watch the live stream of the event, a recorded version is now available above.

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Join us on June 18 for the launch of “Core Values”

Bumble Bee Seafoods, which moved to downtown San Diego in 2014, is one of the companies included in forthcoming research from Smart Growth America. Photo courtesy of Bumble Bee Seafoods.

Over the past five years, hundreds of companies across the United States have moved to and invested in walkable downtowns. Why did companies choose these places? And what features did they look for when picking a new location?

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is new research coming out on June 18 from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis.

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Watch the recorded webcast of “The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns”

To what degree does the choice of development pattern impact costs for a local government? How do these decisions affect a municipality’s budget and tax revenues, and the cost of infrastructure and services it must provide?

The Fiscal Impact of Development Patterns, a new model from Smart Growth America and real estate advisors RCLCO, is designed to help municipalities answer these questions.

The new model was unveiled yesterday morning, and as part of the kickoff Chris Zimmerman, Smart Growth America’s Vice President for Economic Development, and Patrick Lynch, Smart Growth America’s Research Director, presented an overview of the new resource at an event in Madison, WI. The presentation was webcast live yesterday afternoon and a recorded version of their discussion is now available above or on YouTube.

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A transportation engineer on what convinced him to use a Complete Streets approach

west-jefferson“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.

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A new bill in Congress would create new financing option for transit-oriented development

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Transit-oriented development (TOD) can make it easier for people to live and work near public transportation. These places are in high demand and real estate developers are eager to build them, but because they’re often complicated TOD projects can be difficult to secure financing for.

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