Saturday, December 5, 2009

Will We Miss Out On The Money?

Is anybody here aware that the US Department of Transportation has $1.5 billion in ARRA funds available. These funds are multimodal discretionary funds, also known as TIGER grants, and are part of the stimulus package passed earlier this year. There is a small catch, this funding is to be used to support livable cities.

The criteria used to evaluate the projects that request this funding have livability right up at the top, along with safety and economic competitiveness. All we need now is the true meaning of "livability" or at least in the minds of DOT.

The deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy, Beth Osborne, gives the description as focused on mixed use, walkable neighborhoods, and pedestrian access to transit, jobs, stores, schools, and other public buildings. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s definition is, “Livability means a community where you can take kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, go to the grocery store, have dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get into a car.” It is also felt that DOT will likely request funding for a livable communities program in the next surface transportation re-authorization

Any one of you who have read my last two entries will realize that I do not believe that Lexington would meet these criteria. Although our city officials have talked of it, I don't think that there has been near enough progress to say that we are moving into being a "livable city". There is so much more that we could be doing but we still come up short. We keep waiting for someone else to make the first move.

Earlier this year a Partnership for Sustainable Communities was formed in a collaboration involving, DOT, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Their aim, under the Obama administration, is to promote sustainable and livable cities.

HUD’s 2010 budget calls for $100 million for sustainable communities planning grants and $40 million for community challenge grants that could be used for zoning reform and other implementation tools for smart growth. How much of that will be looked at or requested by our administration?

While Lexington has not been hit as hard by the foreclosure crisis as others, HUD studies have shown that neighborhoods with a higher livability rating have a lower foreclosure rate. Can you imagine how we could have fared, had we been more transit and pedestrian oriented?

One last tidbit, it is estimated that if the US shifted just 10 percent of new housing starts to smarter growth development over the next 10 years, Americans would save about 5 billion gallons of gasoline and about $220 billion in household transportation expenses.

How much of that could be your share?

No comments: