Sound Stimulus: How Congress Can Find and Fund the Roads that Reduce Our Oil Addiction and Improve Our Quality of Life
With input from the incoming Obama Administration, Congress is now building a stimulus bill that will likely result in the largest investment in U.S. infrastructure since the creation of the interstate highway system.
For this hundred billion or more in spending to leave our country strategically stronger, not weaker, this moment must be used to chart a new direction for the nation’s transportation systems. The stimulus package must fund major investments in public transportation and high-speed rail, one of the causes the T4 America Campaign is leading with CNU’s full support. The bill must fix structurally deficient bridges, rather than target “functionally deficient” highways for expansion-minded rebuilding.
But perhaps most of all, the stimulus must distinguish between the right kind and wrong kind of pavement — those investments that make communities more livable and sustainable versus those that weaken our strategic position and make families frighteningly vulnerable to volatile energy prices.
Recognizing that networks of highly connected walkable streets are at the heart of great urbanism and of emerging standards for green neighborhood development, CNU sent a key proposal to House Transportation Committee Chair James Oberstar the Friday before Christmas, before the door closed on forwarding items for consideration as part of the stimulus bill.
Developed in consultation with transportation engineers Rick Chellman and Brian Bochner, CNU’s Connected Networks Proposal gives Congress and the Obama Administration a simple and direct means for identifying and funding walkable, high-value networks. In contrast to most federal funding programs, which target sections of individual state highways and other major roads in isolation, CNU’s proposal would apply a new “network” designation to entire areas meeting specific connectivity standards. All streets within qualifying network areas, including the local roads that are generally overlooked by the Feds, could receive federal funding to maintain or improve connectivity through projects that address street conditions, traffic distribution, circulation, or multi-modal movement. Cities and towns have lots and lots of these projects ready to go and ready to create green-collar construction jobs.
Image: A Civic Vision forTurnpike Air Rights, Boston, MA, by Goody Clancy and Associates.
The eligibility criteria are straightforward, the same connectivity standards we at CNU helped develop for LEED for Neighborhood Development, as part of its innovative partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Portions of cities and towns with intersection densities of 150 per square mile would qualify, as would projects that improve connectivity in a non-networked area so that it meets the 150-intersection-per-mile threshold upon completion.
The measure could be called the green street network proposal because without well-connected networks of walkable urban streets served by transit, there simply can be neither energy-efficient green development nor reliable relief from energy price instability. (See how the combination of walkable street networks and mixed-use city and suburban neighborhoods results in driving levels and driving-related carbon emissions that can be half or less of regional averages.) Or it could be called the livable (and valuable) street networks initiative because connected streets are the necessary framework for enduring neighborhoods where shops, schools and other places that serve our daily needs can be found within convenient walking or biking distance. In a time of turmoil in the real estate markets, there are abundant signs that these walkable locations are retaining more value and are positioned to take advantage of coming demographic changes.
If you want to make sure the stimulus bill funds the pavement that supports green neighborhoods — not just the highways and driving-only locations that worsen our oil addiction — ask your Congressperson to support CNU's Connected Street Network proposal. Find the full proposal in the attachment below.
Image: Site map of Mixson, North Charleston, SC, developed by I'On Group, rendering by Peter Musty.
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