Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a major change in how the U.S. funds transportation projects.
In a speech to the Transportation Research Board, LaHood discussed new guidelines for approving federal funding for transportation projects, and announced the revocation of standards set in 2005 by the Bush Administration.
“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”
The former criteria, set by the Bush White House in 2005, focused solely on cost and commute times, but today’s announcement marks an expansion of guidelines to focus equally on ‘livability’ factors - including economic development opportunities and environmental benefits.
The American Public Transportation Association, in a statement released by President William Millar, had high praise for the Department’s shift in funding priority, calling the change “a tremendous step forward,” and “an integral part of the solution in reducing our carbon emissions.”
In addition to the new guidelines, Secy. LaHood said that the federal government would soon distribute $1.5 billion of stimulus funding to transportation projects across the U.S. deemed “innovative and important.”
Locally, projects like the Atlanta Beltline are focused on developing transportation alternatives that echo the sentiments expressed in Washington today, with an emphasis on community and environmental sustainability.
Following LaHood's announcement, Brian Leary, President & CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc, expressed reassurance that ABI's efforts to transform the city of Atlanta were being paralleled by those of the Administration.
“This announcement is an encouraging sign from Washington, and further validation that holistic projects like the BeltLine will be key to solving the transportation issues of the 21st century.”
While a comprehensive list of potential qualifying projects has yet to be released by the DOT, pioneering initiatives such as Atlanta’s Beltline should have a strong case to make when the time comes to apportion the funds.