Author Archives: Alex Dodds

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

booker-tod

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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Transportation and infrastructure take center stage in President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal

2016-federal-budget

President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget yesterday, and if passed, it would be an enormous help to communities looking to grow in better, more economically vibrant ways.

Most notably the proposal includes significant investment in transportation and infrastructure programs (there’s even a photo of a bridge on the cover). Building on the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, the budget proposes $94.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Transportation and sweeping improvements to its programs as part of a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization. That would be a $176 billion increase over the last authorization, and $76 billion more than the four-years of funding proposed in the GROW AMERICA Act last spring.

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Smart Growth News — January 6, 2015

Young Drive an Urban Rebound
Wall Street Journal — January 2, 2015
America’s biggest cities have seen a resurgence as employers and residents show a growing preference to live and work in urban areas. Experts expect the trend to continue—and even spill over into midsize and small cities.

Smart Growth assistance awarded to Bentonville
Arkansas Online — December 30, 2014
The city has been recognized with a national award for its work to make downtown a walkable and attractive destination.

More Nashville Office Workers Expected Downtown As Demand Shifts From The Suburbs
Nashville Public Radio — January 5, 2015
Bridgestone Americas’ decision to move its headquarters from the airport area to downtown Nashville illustrates a larger trend: more businesses are eyeing downtown relocations and more inventory there is being prepared for office tenants.

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Voters strongly support smart growth measures on Election Day 2014

bar-harbor-meMaine’s small businesses, like these in Bar Harbor, will get new help thanks to yesterday’s passage of Question 3. Photo by Duluoz via Flickr.

On Tuesday, voters across America passed statewide, county-wide, and citywide measures in support of smart growth and better development strategies. Here’s a short roundup of what passed, what failed, and what it means for community development.

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Smart Growth News — October 17, 2014

Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible—Move to Des Moines
National Journal — October 16, 2014
Ambitious minds are in the process of building a new Des Moines, a tech hub in Silicon Prairie, an artistic center in the Heartland, a destination for people who want to create something meaningful outside of the limits imposed by an oversaturated city like Chicago or New York.

The link between housing policy and student achievement
Washington Post — October 16, 2014
It is impossible to divorce a student’s life outside of school with how well he or she does in class.

A Chat with Amtrak’s CEO on the State of U.S. Passenger Rail
City Lab — October 16, 2014
Year after year, Amtrak sets ridership records along with the pace of intercity travel in the all-important Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston via New York, where it reaps big profits. And year after year, Amtrak gets hammered for needing huge amounts of federal taxpayer money to maintain costly (yet mandatory) long-distance operations—even as highways require far, far greater subsidies.

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Smart Growth News — October 16, 2014

The Conservative Case Against the Suburbs
The American Conservative — October 15, 2014
America’s suburban experiment is a radical, government-led re-engineering of society, one that artificially inverted millennia of accumulated wisdom and practice in building human habitats.

TOD biggest trend of century, says new report
Real Estate Weekly — October 15, 2014
Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has emerged as the most substantial development trend of the early 21st century, according to real estate experts.

Foxx: Lame Duck Session An Opportunity To Fix Highway Trust Fund
WAMU (DC) — October 16, 2014
The Obama administration’s top transportation official said the coming lame duck session of Congress will present an opportunity to pass an elusive multi-year road and transit funding bill to end the cycle of short-term patches that keep the Highway Trust Fund from going broke.

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Smart Growth News — October 15, 2014

The Return of the American Streetcar
WNPR (Conn.) — October 14, 2014
Could streetcars be the mass transit solution we’ve been waiting for?

Scrunched in Seattle
Politico — October 14, 2014
The country’s fastest growing city (population 640,500), Seattle is the pioneer of micro-housing—tiny, one-room dwellings that are in turn hailed as an affordable, sustainable alternative to the high cost of city living, and disparaged as an inhuman experiment in downsizing.

Crumbling U.S. Fix Seen With Global Trillions of Dollars
Bloomberg News — October 15, 2014
“America needs the upgrade and modernization of our infrastructure, and I don’t think you’ll get there if you keep excluding, or at least discouraging, private capital.”

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Smart Growth News — October 14, 2014

In latest U.S. Census figures, cities continue growing
USA Today — October 7, 2014
Americans’ growing love affair with cities shows few signs of abating, with several large cities, including this one, growing last year at several times the national rate, suggest new findings from the U.S. Census Bureau.

NLC releases its City Fiscal Conditions report
National League of Cities — October 14, 2014
This year’s survey reveals that although the worst is behind, cities’ fiscal conditions have not yet returned to full recovery following the Great Recession.

The economics of building a factory in Brooklyn
Washington Post — October 13, 2014
MakerBot built a 150-employee, 3-D printer factory down the street in Brooklyn – one of the most expensive places to live and work in the United States.

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2014 TIGER grants will help create Complete Streets and great neighborhoods

dahlonega-gaDahlonega, GA will use its TIGER grant to make streets safer and more accessible. Photo via the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the winners of the 2014 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

With an emphasis on getting the highest bang-for-the-buck and solid partnerships, it’s not surprising that many of the winning street projects and plans are those that take a Complete Streets approach. Here are some of our favorites.

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