Author Archives: Craig Chester

Improved community outreach pays off for Tennessee Department of Transportation

Many state DOTs select transportation projects without much coordination with their local jurisdictions. Recently officials in Tennessee decided to do better. Now, key officials from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) have reinvented how the department interacts with local communities to create better outcomes for projects across the state while saving taxpayer money at the same time.

In our April profile of TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, we explained how Schroer initiated a “top to bottom” review of the department. Part of Schroer’s vision for TDOT is for state planners to work more proactively with local communities in the early planning and design phases of transportation projects. Schroer then created a new team tasked with changing the way TDOT plans, designs and funds transportation projects across the state.

The figure leading this charge for TDOT is Toks Omishakin, Assistant Commissioner of Environment and Planning. In 2011, Schroer appointed Omishakin as Deputy Commissioner with the aim of better coordinating TDOT’s long-range planning and project management. A planner by trade with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning and previous roles with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Omishakin is rethinking TDOT’s approach to community relations and transforming how TDOT plans and consults with local governments across the state.

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President Obama Calls on Congress to Save Highway Trust Fund

Yesterday afternoon in Washington, DC, President Obama called on Congress to adopt a long-term transportation bill on the scale of his recently proposed four-year, $302 billion program. In a speech in front of the Key Bridge in Georgetown, the president also appealed to Congress to save the Highway Trust Fund from pending insolvency, which would threaten jobs and the progress of vital transportation projects nationwide.

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Smart Growth America statement on new Senate transportation reauthorization bill

Yesterday, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee released the MAP-21 Reauthorization Act (S. 2322), a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes the Federal transportation program through 2020. Geoff Anderson, President & CEO of Smart Growth America, issued the following statement in response.

“I applaud Senator Boxer and Senator Vitter for advancing this bill to provide immediate and stable funding for America’s transportation networks. How we build our nation’s infrastructure has tremendous implications for neighborhood development and the economic resilience of our communities. The proposed bill includes provisions that will help local communities grow in smarter, stronger ways.

“We strongly applaud the inclusion of a provision to provide financing support to help communities create economic development along transit corridors. We are thankful for the strong leadership demonstrated by Sen. Schatz (HI), as well as Sens. Markey (MA), Gillibrand (NY), and Merkley (OR) in highlighting the growing need to support reinvestment in our communities. This measure will allow communities to better realize the potential of their transit systems, grow their economies, provide families with more housing and transportation choices while giving both the private and public sectors the financial tools to help make it happen. We are also pleased that the bill takes key steps to improve safety for all users of the transportation system, specifically adding safety performance measures for both motorized and non-motorized travelers.

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Where roads are dangerous by design

Every day, in communities across the country, people are killed while walking to school, to work or to the store. Many of these lives could be saved by building and operating streets that work for everyone who uses them.

On Tuesday, May 20, Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition will release Dangerous by Design 2014, a report that brings attention to the national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities and the decades-long neglect of pedestrian safety.

The 2014 edition will rank the country’s major metropolitan areas using a Pedestrian Danger Index, which assesses the likelihood that a person walking will be hit by a driver of a vehicle, and by looking at overall percentage of traffic deaths suffered by people walking. In addition, it will make specific recommendations at the national and state levels to improve safety, including Complete Streets practices that ensure streets are built and operated for the safety of all road users.

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Transportation Commissioner John Schroer sets ambitious goals for Tennessee Department of Transportation

Over the next few months, we are highlighting state transportation officials that are using new approaches and innovative ideas to help solve their states’ transportation challenges. To follow these updates and other news from our work around the country, be sure to sign up for the Smart Growth America newsletter.

When John Schroer was appointed Commissioner of Transportation for the state of Tennessee in 2011, he immediately took a hands-on approach to helping local leaders find solutions to their transportation challenges across the state while helping to save taxpayer money at the same time.

Within weeks of his appointment in 2011, Schroer initiated a “top to bottom” review of TDOT, including its organization, processes and leadership. “We’ve basically broken down the department and built it back up,” said Schroer in a recent conversation with Smart Growth America. “We looked at everything we did and analyzed it from a production and financial standpoint.”

In 2012, Schroer partnered with Smart Growth America and his TDOT leaders to find ways the department could use its resources more efficiently, create better outcomes and save taxpayer money. The resulting guide, Transportation Process Alternatives for Tennessee – Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, was the product of months of collaboration between Smart Growth America experts, TDOT management, regional and community representatives, and transportation advocates. According to Schroer, the project is “intended to serve as a guide for our department’s program activities as we continue to evaluate our transportation needs and priorities with the goals of better stimulating our economy, protecting our environment and building our communities.”

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Smart Growth News – April 14, 2014

Initiatives can help combat rising cost of medical care in the U.S.
Idaho Statesman – April 14, 2014
Solve for walkability, and you solve for many other issues. A walkable city is a resilient city.

7 Cities Where Poor Neighborhoods Bucked the Trend and Became Wealthier
Next City – April 14, 2014
Since 1980, the nation’s poorest neighborhoods have remained mostly unchanged while high-income areas have seen robust growth.

Developing the First Well-Being Index for Cities
Planetizen – April 14, 2014
Santa Monica, California is working to become the first city to develop a first well-being index for its residents. The index will help the city’s government measure and serve citizen happiness.

WisDOT, pleading poverty, is after more of our money
Journal Sentinel (WI) – April 14, 2014
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has begun a series of statewide meetings to make the case for more tax revenue to fund more road projects, though the agency knows that motorists are driving fewer miles.

Kisco Senior Living Targets Mixed-Use Communities for $160M Pipeline
Senior Housing News – April 14, 2014
California-based senior living owner, operator, and developer is differentiating its $160 million new development pipeline by locating all the projects in mixed-use, master-planned communities.

Gore, experts to gather at UH-Manoa for sustainability conference
KHON (HI) – April 10, 2014
In addition to Gore, world-renowned experts from across the state and nation are expected to attend the invitation-only conference, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Geoffrey Anderson, president of Smart Growth America.

Redevelop brownfields safely — new state rules will help
Boston Globe (MA) – April 14, 2014
Given its long industrial history and the intense demand for suitable locations for new homes and businesses, Massachusetts needs well-tuned policies that promote the safe redevelopment of polluted properties — and those policies should evolve as science advances.

Study: Atlanta sprawls while Hall County hangs tight
Gainesville Times (GA) – April 14, 2014
The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta region — perhaps not surprisingly — is the most sprawling large metropolitan area in the country.

Louisville ranked poorly in sprawl study
Courier Journal (KY) – April 14, 2014
It will probably come as no surprise to residents and visitors of Kentuckiana that Louisville has ranked poorly in a new study of metropolitan areas looking at sprawl.

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Smart Growth News – April 11, 2014

Transit-oriented development — the future of city planning
Devex – April 11, 2014
As the world population continues to rise and more people move to cities, urban planning will increasingly become a priority in development efforts, which traditionally have focused on other areas such as health, education or food security.

TIGER Grant Funding Now Available
Planning.org – April 11, 2014
The Department of Transportation announced the availability of $600 million in TIGER grants last week. Applications for grants are due on April 28, though applicants are encouraged to submit applications by April 25.

A Tale of Two Travels: Expanding Sprawl vs. Complete Streets
Public News Service (IA) – April 10, 2014
It’s a tale of two travels in Iowa, as some communities have made the list of cities dealing with the most sprawl, while others are being honored for their work on transportation that includes options for pedestrians and bicyclists.

9 Bold ideas to tell your mayor about
Next City – April 11, 2014
In the slideshow below, we offer a look at some of the ideas under discussion in our Innovative Americas pavilion.

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Smart Growth News – April 10, 2014

Global Survey Maps Out Growing Trend of Transit-Oriented Development in Six Continents
AzoBuild.com – April 10, 2014
A global catalog of 50 urban developments on six continents maps out the growing trend of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

Is Chicago Still the Urban Development Promised Land?
Next City – April 10, 2014
For pro-development types, Chicago is often thought of as something of a promised land. While it may not have Houston’s complete lack of a zoning code, the Second City is known as a much easier place to build than its coastal counterparts.

America’s Most Sprawling Cities Are Also the Most Republican
The Atlantic Cities – April 10, 2014
Hickory, a small industrial city in western North Carolina, lies within the state’s 10th congressional district, one that the Washington Post has called “one of the most Republican in the nation.”

4 little-known real estate opportunities near SunRail stations
Orlando Business Journal (FL) – April 10, 2014
If you’re a SunRail follower — and a real estate junkie — you’re familiar with something known as TOD.

‘Urban Experiential Displays’ Proposed for Philadelphia’s Center City
Planetizen – April 9, 2014
“Called urban experiential displays, or UEDs, they would communicate advertising, news and public service announcements. These UEDs are also being proposed as a revenue generator for the city as well as a place making mechanism.”

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Smart Growth News – April 9, 2014

Density Isn’t a Hipster Conspiracy, Ctd.
D Magazine (TX) – April 9, 2014
Yesterday I wrote about how those who are starting to make the argument that tearing down I-345 is bad for poor people are indulging in crazy talk. Today we have some new numbers to back up that claim from Smart Growth America’s recently released Measuring Sprawl report. According to their research the compactness of cities has a direct relationship on economic mobility.

America’s Apartment Shortage: 8 Million Units
Planetizen – April 9, 2014
Consumer preference surveys have always been fairly useless when it comes to determining actual housing preferences.

‘We Razed 270 Houses and All We Got Was This Lousy Boat Shop’
Next City – April 9, 2014
Hitching the city’s hopes to a Bass Pro shop (boats are sold in a showroom, not in the water) is just the start.

Grassroots Miami group brainstorms to transform transit to and from work
Miami Herald – April 9, 2014
Hate your drive to and from work? Most of us do, and a group of Miami-Dade County activists is brainstorming to turn the daily commute from drudgery to “delightful.”

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Smart Growth News – April 8, 2014

Urban Sprawl: Get Fat, Stay Poor, And Die In Car Crashes
Fast Co. Design – April 8, 2014
That urban design improves the quality of people’s lives is an old idea. A new study, Measuring Sprawl 2014, now finds that people who live in densely populated regions benefit in many ways. In brief, they have greater economic mobility, they’re healthier, and they live longer.

Reversing Sprawl Through Connectivity
Memphis Daily News (TN) – April 8, 2014
This is why the work we’ve done over the last few years, starting with Sustainable Shelby, to create a more sustainable city and region is so important for our future.

The Search for Affordable Housing Is Pushing the Middle Class to the Exurbs
The Atlantic Cities – April 8, 2014
New data and maps from the real estate research firm Zillow shed light on the uneven nature of housing prices across several major U.S. cities and metros.

Having kids walk to school comes with risks, benefits
My Fox Philly (PA) – April 8, 2014
The likelihood of an accident depends more on the environment kids have to travel through — such as high-traffic areas — and they’re calling on policymakers to do more to make sure kids can safely walk or bike to school.

National media take aim at Dallas’ traffic, lack of walkable accessibility for Final 4
Dallas Morning News (TX) – April 8, 2014
“It’s not a knock on Dallas, but you need to have these events in places where you can walk and be downtown and have it all in one place,” Greer said.

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