Category: Federal

USDOT proposes to remove restrictive design guidelines that make safer streets more difficult to build


Crossposted from Transportation for America.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) took an encouraging and surprising step this week to make it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets that are safer for everyone by easing federally-mandated design standards on many roads.

Currently, FHWA has a long list of design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads, unless they choose to go through an arduous process of requesting an exception to do things like line a downtown street with street trees, reduce the width of lanes to add a bike lane, or curve a street slightly to slow traffic and make it safer for people in cars and on foot.

In this new proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteria for certain roads because they decided these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and has a stronger connection for rural roads, freeways and higher speed urban arterials.

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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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FTA announces the 21 winners of inaugural Transit-Oriented Development Planning Grants

Sound Transit’s LINK light rail on the Seattle-SeaTac line. Six stations will eventually be added to Tacoma’s separate LINK line, doubling their number of stations.

Crossposted from Transportation for America.

It’s important that communities make the best use of land around transit lines and stops, efficiently locate jobs and housing near new transit stations, and boost ridership — which can also increase the amount of money gained back at the farebox. Twenty-one communities today received a total of $19.5 million in federal grants from a new pilot program intended to do exactly that.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Transit-Oriented Development Planning Pilot Program was one of the bright spots in MAP-21, and a priority we worked hard to see included in the final bill during those negotiations back in the summer of 2012, along with our colleagues at LOCUS, the coalition of responsible real estate investors within Smart Growth America.

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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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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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Senate transportation bill expands financing for transit-oriented development

Senators Schatz, Markey and Merkley champion provision to support investment in neighborhoods near transit

The Senate passed its final six-year transportation reauthorization bill today, and included in the bill is a provision to expand the eligibility of transit-oriented development (TOD) projects for federal TIFIA financing. The provision would also expand financing for infrastructure projects that promote transit ridership, walkability, or increased private investment.

“If you took a bus or train to work today, you know how convenient it is to live and work near a transit stop,” said Christopher Coes, Director of LOCUS. “Transit-oriented development makes day-to-day life easier for millions of Americans. It’s also the backbone of regional economies across the country. The Senate’s bill will make creating new TOD projects easier, and will give more Americans the option to live and work near transit while also supporting economic growth nationwide.”

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Senate transportation bill includes landmark provision for safer streets

Senators Schatz, Heller, Franken, and Udall champion provision to address national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities

The Senate voted on its final six-year transportation reauthorization bill today, and included in the bill was a landmark provision to make streets across the country safer for everyone who uses them. The Safe Streets amendment would require states and metropolitan planning organizations to plan and design for the safety needs of all users—regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation—in all federally-funded projects.

“America is facing an epidemic of pedestrian deaths,” said Stefanie Seskin, Deputy Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “This bill will make a Complete Streets approach routine in federal projects. That means streets will be safer for Americans of all ages and abilities, no matter how they travel.”

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House subcommittee hearing makes the case to reauthorize EPA Brownfields program

On Wednesday the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to examine the many benefits of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields program. The program has been funded for the past several years but is not a formally authorized part of the federal budget. Wednesday’s hearing examined whether that should change.

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