Tag: congress

New and expanded urban development programs included in President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal

promise-zone-camdenPresident Obama in Camden, NJ in May. Camden is one of 13 Promise Zones, a program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would be expanded under the 2017 proposed budget. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy, via HUD.

President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2017 federal budget yesterday, and it outlines the President’s lofty political ambitions for the coming year. The proposal focuses on five main goals: continuing the country’s economic and fiscal progress, supporting innovation, creating opportunity for all Americans, national security and global leadership, and improving how government works. Smart growth strategies play an important role in achieving several of those goals — here are some specifics of what the budget would mean for programs related to housing, urban development, and transportation.

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Safe streets provisions in FAST Act represent a huge step forward in the effort to strengthen local communities

Late last night, Congress passed a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill—the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Notably, the bill requires all design for National Highway System roadways to take into account access for all modes of transportation. It also makes NACTO’s Urban Design Guide one of the standards for when the U.S. Department of Transportation designs roads, and it permits local governments to use their own adopted design guides if they are the lead project sponsor, even if it differs from state guidelines.

Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, issued the following statement in response.

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The fight for Complete Streets goes to conference

The battle is on in Congress this week for the final version of the next federal transportation bill.

In one corner, the Senate and its version which includes strong language to make streets safer across the country. In the other corner, the House and its version which falls far short.

Which will win?

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This week: How will the House improve its version of the transportation bill?

Last week the House of Representatives passed its initial version of a multiyear transportation bill. This bill has the potential to make streets safer across the country, help communities build more homes and offices near transit, and give more control of transportation investments to local communities. In order for this to happen, though, the House’s version of the bill needs to improve considerably.

Representatives agree: they’ve filed more than 200 amendments to the current version of the bill. Today the Rules Committee will decide which ones to allow to the floor. And then later this week, the full House will vote on all the amendments and create their final version of the bill.

Make the next transportation bill a forward-looking one: Send a letter to your representative this morning >>

Several amendments under consideration would improve how the bill supports walkable communities served by transit, including:

  • Amendment #18 from Representative Lipinski of Illinois, which would make transit-oriented development (TOD) eligible for RRIF funding.
  • Amendment #21 from Representative DeSaulnier of California, which would improve planning and project selection performance measures and transparency.
  • Amendment #37, also from Representative Lipinski, which expresses the Sense of Congress that TOD is an eligible activity under the RRIF program.
  • Amendment #47 from Representative Schakowsky of Illinois that would require a study and rule on safety standards or performance measures to improve pedestrian safety.


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Bipartisan coalition introduces the Safe Streets Act of 2015

safe-streets-act-2015

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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Last chance to tell USDOT to set real safety goals

Students walk along street with no sidewalks next to automobile traffic.

There’s just one week left to tell the US Department of Transportation to get serious about safety and accountability.

In MAP-21, the current federal law governing national transportation investments, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to set certain measures of progress for the state transportation agencies. In March, USDOT unveiled its proposal for measuring and showing progress in reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries both as pure numbers and as a function of vehicles miles traveled (VMT). Congress clearly stated that they wanted a “significant reduction” in fatalities and injuries for all users on all roads, and they doubled the amount available through the related safety program to help achieve that goal.

USDOT’s proposal falls short. Send a letter to Secretary Foxx today.

First, states only need to show progress in two of those four goals, which is out of step with Congressional intent.

Second, the process for setting goals and measuring progress is out of line with the goals states already develop—and no where near visionary or inspiring. Instead, USDOT would use a historical trend line to establish targets each year. States make “significant progress” by achieving fatality or injury numbers within a 70 percent confidence interval of that projected trend line. If a state’s target is determined to be 759 fatalities, so long as it sees fewer than 825 fatalities, USDOT will say that it has made progress. More people can die or be seriously injured without consequence.

Our third issue with the rulemaking: it doesn’t separate non-motorized users from motorized. In doing so, states could lose sight of growing safety problems in walking and bicycling among the larger share, and generally downward trending, of vehicular safety.

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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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What the GROW AMERICA Act would mean for smart growth and community development

Yesterday the Obama Administration sent Congress its proposal for a four-year federal transportation bill—the GROW AMERICA Act. The current bill, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of September, and the new bill has implications for highway and rail construction as well as economic development programs like TIGER grants. How would these proposals impact community development and smart growth?

The good news
The bill includes several promising policies for smart growth advocates.

First and foremost, it would require cities and states to consider all modes of travel when designing federally funded roads, provisions very similar to those proposed in the Safe Streets Act. This strategy gets the most out of federally funded projects, makes sure a given project best meets a community’s needs, and supports neighborhoods with a wide range of transportation choices—all things that Smart Growth America supports.

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Top spring break destination this year is your Congressional representatives’ district offices

Springtime on Capitol Hill. Photo by Kate Harbath via Flickr.

As the adage goes, April showers bring…Congress home for spring break!

Spring break is a great time to meet with your Senators or Representative in your community and ask them to support the Safe Streets Act (S. 2004/H.R. 2468), which encourages communities to consider safety improvements for all users in transportation project planning.

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House tax reform proposal a mixed bag on urban development issues

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) took the first step toward comprehensive tax reform yesterday and introduced a proposal that would have a mixed impact on communities’ efforts to grow in smart, economically efficient ways. Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America, and Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS, issued this joint statement in response:

“Above all, we’re glad Congress is finally tackling comprehensive tax reform. Hundreds of billions are currently spent through the tax code on housing and community development and much of this could be spent better than it is today. For anyone who wants to see these incentives achieve their maximum effect—helping Americans access good affordable housing choices in safe, stable, thriving communities, tax reform is a must.


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