Category: Action

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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Tell the Federal Highway Administration to make good street design the standard

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THIS DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A HIGHWAY. US-62 in downtown Hamburg, NY is part of the National Highway System, and an example of why the system’s design standards should be flexible. Photo by Dan Burden.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is poised to issue new guidance about street design across the country. Will the new guidance include walking, bicycling, and transit facilities?

Last month, FHWA proposed revisions to its rule governing design standards for the National Highway System (NHS). That system includes interstates and other high-speed, high-volume roads, but it also includes a whole lot of routes you’d more likely call “Main Street.” Thousands of miles of the NHS are streets that serve commercial centers, homes, shops, parks, schools, and hospitals—places where people often walk, bike, or take public transportation, in addition to driving.

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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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House of Representatives considers appropriations bill that would slash funding to housing, transportation programs

Today the House of Representatives will continue consideration of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, which will set funding levels for nearly all federal housing and transportation programs in the coming year.

The House’s current version of the bill would slash funding for many of these programs, including grants and technical assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Specifically, the bill:

  • Cuts funding for HUD’s HOME program from $900 million in FY15 to $767 million in FY16. HOME must be fully funded in addition to, not at the expense of, critically needed funding for the NHTF.
  • Cuts funding for HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program from $90 million in FY15 to $20 million in FY16. Choice Neighborhoods supports struggling neighborhoods and aids in community revitalization.
  • Eliminates HUD’s Office of Economic Resilience, which has helped communities rebuild their economies, create jobs and improve economic development.
  • Cuts $200 million for new transit construction. This comes at a time when public transportation ridership is booming and cities of all sizes are looking to invest in new bus, rail transit, and bikeshare projects to help them stay economically competitive.
  • Slashes funding for USDOT’s TIGER program by 80 percent from last year’s level down to just $100 million. Over the past six years this competitive grant program has proven to be incredibly popular and effective, and its previous funding level was already inadequate to fulfill the huge demand for this program across the country. The program has funded innovative projects in communities of all sizes in all 50 states — and in districts both red and blue.
  • Cuts Amtrak’s budget by $250 million, just a few weeks after the tragic Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia and at a time when ridership is growing fast.

The bill does maintain funding levels for HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program at $3 billion.

Take action

Members of the House will consider this bill later today, so now is the time to voice your support for these important programs. Send a letter to your Representative today >>

These programs help Americans live in safe, affordable homes in convenient neighborhoods with transportation choices. That’s important for families and it’s crucial for our economy. Tell your Representative not to cut these important programs.

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Bipartisan coalition introduces the Safe Streets Act of 2015

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A new bill in the House of Representatives would help communities across the country make streets safer and more convenient for everyone who uses them.

Late yesterday, Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2015 (HR 2071), a bill which would require all new federally-funded transportation projects to use a Complete Streets approach to planning, designing, and building roads.

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LOCUS announces place-based social equity and affordable housing initiative

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger introduces Place-Based Model for Social Equity
LOCUS President Chris Leinberger introduces Place-Based Model for Social Equity

This week, LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a program of Smart Growth America, announced a three-part national strategy to address housing and social equity calling upon developers to join them in the cause. The proposed initiative would be centered around new conscious place-based social equity metrics.

The announcement came Tuesday during the third annual Walkable Urban Places Conference, co-hosted by Urban Land Institute Washington and the George Washington University Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. LOCUS sponsored the event along with Venable LLP.

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How much will your region lose when the transportation trust fund goes bust?

The national transportation trust fund—which provides funding for all kinds of transportation projects including highway maintenance, bridge repair and public transit—is predicted to go bankrupt later this year. When that happens, most states and dozens of metropolitan areas will lose …

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