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FHWA's Fostering Livable Communities Newsletter - July 2013

Volume 2, Number 2

Also available for download (PDF, 1.6MB)

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Introduction

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Fostering Livable Communities Newsletter is intended to provide transportation professionals with real-world examples to help them improve the relationship between transportation agencies and communities, such as providing access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools, and safer roads. To access additional tools and resources, or to learn more about FHWA's Livability Initiative, please visit FHWA's Livability website, or visit the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC) website. To read past issues of the newsletter, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/newsletter/. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit GovDelivery.

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Context Sensitive Solutions for Rural Communities

David M. Nelson, Transportation Associate
Project for Public Places

ContextSensitiveSolutions.org recently released a new package of resources for rural communities. The site is part of FHWA's Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP), and serves as a clearinghouse for Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) resources. Through case studies, research and policy publications, news, videos, an image library, and a popular webinar series, ContextSensitiveSolutions.org promotes the integration of contextual and interdisciplinary processes into transportation planning and design.

The audience for this site includes a growing number of representatives from small towns and rural States, communities that face challenges and opportunities distinct from those of urban areas. For instance, in a rural context, a State highway may serve as the town's only commercial street and as the civic heart of the community. While rural roads between towns provide critical access to bucolic scenery and historically significant settings, they may also substantially impact those resources.

Guidance and best practices for addressing these and other uniquely rural situations are now available on the newly launched Rural Livability page. One example, US Hwy 93 in Montana is a case study of fostering rural livability in a road widening project. Utilizing CSS principles, the Montana DOT partnered with the public to overcome a decade of delay and develop a road reconstruction plan that complemented the scenic mountain terrain, complete with wildlife crossing structures, interpretive roadside pull-offs, and a 10-mile separated bike trail. Another case study in Houghton, Michigan, highlights a road resurfacing project on US Hwy 41 that became a $4.6 million end-to-end Main Street reconstruction, including sidewalks. The pedestrian-friendly environment helped spur 100 permanent jobs downtown and jump-started retail and apartment construction.

ContextSensitiveSolutions.org plans to host a webinar exploring the connections between rural livability and CSS.  To receive updates concerning this webinar and other resources on the site, please subscribe here.

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Appalachia Targeted Technical Assistance in Salamanca, New York

Karen Rosenberger, Intermodal Transportation Coordinator
FHWA - New York Division

Salamanca, New York, was one of seven communities in Appalachia chosen as part of the Appalachia Technical Assistance Program to receive a targeted two-day workshop. The program is designed to gather ideas from community members and collaboratively develop new sustainability approaches compatible with the PSC's six livability principles. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held the Salamanca workshop, which focused on developing an action plan to implement the city's Main Street revitalization efforts.

The city of Salamanca is located on a reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians; the population of nearly 6,000 is about 37 percent Native American. The city lies along the Allegheny River amidst the natural beauty of hills, forests, trails, and lakes and serves as the main gateway to the Allegany State Park. At the juncture of three major railroads, Salamanca has a rich industrial past of logging, sawmills, and furniture manufacturing. The decline of the railroad brought a period of economic downturn, which is being slowly reversed by the development of a new tourism industry.

The workshop sessions had high-quality participation including Federal and local stakeholders. The agenda included a tour of downtown and a public input session on the first day, and an action planning work session on the second day. During the community workshop, several priority strategies emerged to redevelop a vision for Main Street as a vibrant place that appeals to residents and tourists, has a diverse mix of businesses, is a center of Seneca culture and arts, and is welcoming, safe, and accessible. Key linkages were made to the six PSC livability principles:

Many strategies focused on transportation: improving signage directing visitors from the outlying Seneca Allegany Casino to Salamanca's downtown; adding complete streets to the city's comprehensive plan; and supporting the development of a multiuse trail. The sessions also covered other important themes: supporting an economic transition from an industrial past; reclaiming a sense of place; developing strategies for making rural communities livable for all residents, and coordinating decisionmaking between the Seneca Nation and the city of Salamanca. All themes brainstormed during the workshop were then used to develop an action plan to help achieve the downtown vision and sustain ongoing revitalization efforts in the near- and long-term.

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Supporting Vibrant, Livable Communities on Washington State's Olympic Peninsula

Christopher Hoffer, Regional Sustainability Officer
HUD, Region 10 - Field Policy and Management

Over the last several years, Forterra, a nonprofit land conservation and community-building organization in the Pacific Northwest, has worked with communities across Washington State's rural Olympic Peninsula. Home to temperate rainforests, rugged coastlines, and the majestic Olympic National Park, the Peninsula contains a regional network of small cities, towns, and tribal villages that are eager to embrace new models for sustainable development. Forterra works to ensure healthy communities, a dynamic regional economy, and vibrant landscapes through partnerships with governmental agencies and technical assistance.

Figure 1. Photo shows participants meeting at a table looking over plans and photographs at the Ocean Shores community workshop.

Figure 1. Photo shows participants meeting
at a table looking over plans and
photographs at the Ocean Shores
community workshop.

In the fall of 2012, Forterra's Communities Team and Federal staff, on detail from HUD, built on this interest by implementing strategies for long-term community and economic development.

With funding from the NEA, Forterra provided workshops on historic preservation, economic development, and urban design in Port Angeles and Aberdeen. Forterra then followed up with focused planning assistance on redeveloping the city of Aberdeen's historic downtown and improving connectivity in the city of Ocean Shores. Additionally, with funding from the EPA's Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program, Forterra supported the Makah Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation in their goals for healthy living and community resilience. Details on the Ocean Shores and Makah Tribe projects are below.

Complete Streets in Ocean Shores

In the city of Ocean Shores, Forterra developed the first complete streets policy on the Olympic Peninsula, ensuring future roads and street improvements will be designed for users of all ages and abilities, whether walking, bicycling, using transit, or driving. In addition to better connecting its waterfront, tourist areas, and the main shopping district through complete streets, Ocean Shores was eager to pursue economic and community development through a more vibrant and accessible streetscape. To create an ordinance that would reflect the needs of residents, Forterra hosted a community event designed to educate residents and gather input. The event included an overview of current best practices, breakout sessions to work with residents and elected officials on a vision for complete streets, a discussion around why this policy was desired, and what future projects were most important to the community. Ocean Shores received recognition for their efforts when this policy was ranked fourth in the nation by the National Complete Streets Coalition, out of 125 complete streets policies adopted in 2012.

Active Living in Neah Bay

In the remote village of Neah Bay, the Makah Tribe received planning assistance to engage community members in conversations about healthy living through biking, walking, and infrastructure planning. Over the course of two days, Forterra hosted events including a biking audit, elder-youth walking audit, bike repair workshop, and a high school focus group. More than 50 community members attended events and gave input, including prioritizing new locations for crosswalks, lighting, signage, and paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Based on this input, Forterra made recommendations for ways to improve physical infrastructure and community capacity for walking and biking. This work built on existing efforts, funded by a Community Transformation Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure residents can lead healthy, active lives into the future.

The work of Forterra, tribes, and communities on the Olympic Peninsula demonstrates that the principles of livability can help communities of all types and sizes realize their unique visions for the future.

Figure 2. Photo shows people walking along a trail and bicyclists on a path near the village of Neah Bay.

Figure 2: Photos by Skye Schell (Forterra) from Neah Bay biking and walking audits.

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GroWNC

Loretta Barren, Transportation Planner
FHWA - North Carolina Division

With a grant from HUD, the Land of Sky Council of Governments embarked on a regional journey to bring together local, State, and Federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations to study jobs and economic development, housing, natural and cultural resources, transportation, energy, land use, and health and wellness.The GroWNC project relies upon existing plans and strategies from five counties in western North Carolina (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania) to foster a regional vision, enhance economic prosperity, and identify implementation projects and actions.

GroWNC employs a range of strategies to engage the public. These strategies include: community meetings, one-on-one sessions, virtual meetings, scenario planning workshops, surveys, videos, and social media. During community meetings, citizens were asked, "What do you like most about living here?", "What do you think most needs improvement?" and "What do you hope to see in the future?" The Community Road Trip effort was designed to open up the planning process and allow people who could not attend scheduled meetings to download presentations and take them on the road in order to review and comment.

The scenario planning process provided a scenario that maintained industrial land for industrial development and agricultural land for agricultural development, a business-as-usual scenario, current year scenario, and possible performance measures to evaluate. Fourteen stations with approximately 10 people per table spent an entire day critically evaluating the future of the region.

Over 4,300 citizens contributed not only their time and cooperation, but also their ideas to preserve and grow their community; to keep what makes it special to them and to attract tourists and future citizens. As the project nears its end, everyone involved realizes the real work is just beginning. Citizens and organizations are being asked to put their "Ideas to action," to review public comments received, review the preferred future scenario and key recommendations and actions, and offer suggestions for next steps.

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Urban Waters Federal Partnership Expands

Alexandra Tyson, Environmental Policy Analyst
Office of the Secretary of Transportation

Healthy urban watersheds provide more than clean water; research indicates that they enable neighboring communities to strengthen their economies, create new jobs, improve health outcomes, and expand educational, recreational, housing, and social opportunities. Recognizing these connections, EPA created the Urban Waters Federal Partnershipto revitalize urban waterways in under-served communities across the country. Since its launch in 2011, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership has aligned with other White House place-based initiatives, such as the PSC, Strong Cities Strong Communities, and President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative.

In May 2013, EPA, in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and other Federal partners, announced that the Urban Waters Federal Partnership will be adding 11 new locations and two new Federal partner agencies to restore waterways, protect Americans' health, help local economies, and create jobs. The expansion will further the goals of the partnership and address a wide range of issues, such as improving water quality, restoring ecosystems, and enhancing public access to urban waters.

The U.S. Department of Education will join the 11 existing agencies, expanding the expertise of the partnership by linking school groups with their local waterways and preparing students for science-related careers. The U.S. Department of Energy will also partner to help communities accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. In addition, 11 new project locations across the country have been added to the partnership:

The USDOT has supported the Urban Waters Federal Partnership to promote Federal cooperation at headquarters and in field offices. The USDOT hosted a face-to-face meeting of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership Executive Workgroup, and also presented on grant resource opportunities at pilot leadership peer-to-peer exchange sessions. More recently, USDOT hosted the Urban Waters Federal Partners Day as part of the Urban Waters National Training Conference in October 2012.

In response to requests from several pilot programs, USDOT has helped identify local representatives to participate. In addition to facilitating local engagement, USDOT works to ensure that information about upcoming grant opportunities is disseminated.

The USDOT has also coordinated to resolve issues in several pilot locations, such as in Anacostia, Washington, D.C., where USDOT provided funding to complete the Anacostia Riverwalk project. Throughout the lifespan of the Anacostia Riverwalk project, USDOT worked with other Federal agencies and representatives from local government to facilitate the environmental review process and ensure that the project was completed in an environmentally sound manner. For more information about the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, please contact Alexandra Tyson at alexandra.tyson@dot.gov or (202) 366-1361.

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Oyate Omniciye Oglala Lakota Plan

Guadalupe Herrera, Sustainability Officer
HUD - Region 8

Figure 3 shows members of the Oglala Lakota tribe - Nick Tilsen, Executive Director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, and Scott Moore, Architect.

Figure 3: Foreground: Nick Tilsen, Executive Director
of TVCDC.
Background: Scott Moore, Architect

The Oglala Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota have created a long-range planning document unlike any other. With the help of all who came before them and those to come after, the tribe created the Oyate Omniciyé Oglala Lakota Plan, which is infused with their history, culture, and language. The plan is in the Lakota language and is the result of 19 months of organizing, planning, and facilitated discussion.

In 2010, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (TVCDC) received a $996,000 planning grant from the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (OSHC). Through the efforts of Thunder Valley, a consortium of tribal leaders was established that would become the foundation for the implementation of the regional plan. The TVCDC Executive Director, Nick Tilsen, led the process through a complex citizen involvement effort.

The plan provides a vision and 12 priority initiatives to achieve the vision:

Regional Planning Office is an initiative to create a planning office on the reservation to take responsibility for the stewardship and implementation of the plan.

Governance is an initiative to promote greater stability through transparency and constitutional reforms. The newly elected leadership has a great task to improve the three branches of government and to increase public involvement on Pine Ridge.

Language is another critical initiative.The first step was to agree that the plan should be written in the Lakota language as well as in English. The people wish to revive common use of the Lakota language and infuse it in all aspects of future planning.

Youth is an initiative to support the mental and physical development of young people, crucial to the future of the tribe. Approximately 50 percent of the people living on the reservation are under 25 years of age.

Model Community Development is an initiative which focuses on creating sustainable and interconnected communities that provide better housing, jobs, community facilities, infrastructure for new businesses, and a healthy and supportive environment for residents of Pine Ridge. The Housing Authority is presently working to build 18 new units of housing on the reservation, while Thunder Valley, Lakota College, and the University of Colorado are working to build four new energy-efficient homes on Thunder Valley, a quarter mile north of Sharps Corner. Their first straw bale home is near completion, and will be studied over the next year for energy efficiency.

Health and Wellness is an initiative to improve physical, mental, and spiritual health for all.

Education, Training, and Outreach is an initiative that expands on teaching methods to involve, inform, engage, and grow.

Economy is an initiative for better access to funding and financing to build homes and businesses. The initiative supports entrepreneurship and the private sector.

Land Use is an initiative to sustain a balance between the development of homes, businesses, agriculture, and the preservation of habitats and landscapes.

Environment and Ecosystems is an initiative to steward the natural environment, including water, air, and earth. The Tribe hopes to begin this through mapping and restoring their ecosystems.

Communication is an initiative to build on a well-connected network of people and focus on high-speed network systems.

Transportation is the 12th and final initiative. There is a tremendous need to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure that supports all of the other initiatives. Nearly 90 percent of food is transported to the reservation by truck. The average person drives 70 miles to Rapid City, rather than shopping locally.The lack of east-west roads on the reservation cuts off communities from each other. Since 2009, the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Transportation has operated diesel-powered buses across the reservation.Building east-west roads could cut commute times by 35 minutes each way, saving fuel for the transit organization that relies on Federal funding.

The plan is only the beginning. The real work will be implementing the 12 intiatives, which will require further collaboration and coordination on Pine Ridge between the tribe and the league of Federal friends. The plan is an instrument to guide the Tribe to those appropriate Federal and non-Federal entities. HUD, USDOT, EPA, and USDA continue to provide support.

More information is available at: www.oglalalakotaplan.org/.

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FHWA Texas Division Hosts Green Streets Workshop

Kirk Fauver, Environmental and Transportation Coordinator
FHWA - Texas Division

On April 24, 2013, the FHWA Texas Division, in conjunction with the FHWA Resource Center, held a one‐day Green Streets workshop at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Riverside campus in Austin, Texas. Over 100 individuals attended this event representing Federal agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, city/county transportation planning officials, university researchers, State and local environmental groups, members of the transportation industry, and private sector consultants. The free one‐day event was sponsored by the Region 6 DOT/EPA/HUD PSC Communities in honor of Earth Day Week.

Figure 4 shows participants at the FHWA Green Street Workshop on April 24, 2013 seated at tables, taking notes, and listening to speakers.

Figure 4: Participants at the FHWA Green Streets Workshop
on April 24, 2013 (Photo credit: Kirk Fauver, FHWA Texas)

Participants were provided real-world examples of green streets and infrastructure efforts within the Central Texas and San Antonio regions. Sessions covered the following topics:

For a full version of this abridged article, please email or contact Kirk D. Fauver, Environmental and Transportation Coordinator, FHWA Texas Division at: kirk.fauver@dot.gov or (512) 536‐5952.

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Spotlight on Region1

Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) reported multiple livability-related updates for January through March 2013. Here are some highlights from the region:

Sustain Southern Maine

Carlos Pena, Community Planner
FHWA - Maine Division

Sustain Southern Maine is a regional partnership of organizations, communities, and businesses working together to strengthen the local economy, environment, and sense of community. It is administered by the Greater Portland Council of Governments and supported by a $1.6 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grant, which was first issued in October 2010. This regional partnership encompasses 42 municipalities from Kittery to Brunswick, and the original collective of 26 organizations has grown to include over 40. Sustain Southern Maine is working to advance the principles espoused by the PSC. Specifically, they seek to preserve the resources that make this area unique, provide quality educational and employment options, improve housing options near employment centers, reduce household energy costs, address infrastructure needs, and plan services for an aging population.

Sustain Southern Maine is supporting pilot projects in nine communities. Each of the nine communities has conducted technical workshops with land owners, community representatives, developers, architects, and municipal staff. Eight of the nine have held public workshops to present and gather feedback on the ideas generated at the technical workshops.Sustain Southern Maine is compiling a list of challenges and opportunities for each project, as well as a collective overview of common challenges and opportunities.These will be used to develop a tool kit for other communities seeking to replicate the process, and will help to identify next steps. A design charge, fact sheet, lessons learned, and visuals detailing the ideas presented at the respective public workshops can be found for each project on the website.

A complete, integrated long-range transportation plan and accompanying work is scheduled for completion in summer 2013,along with a housing market analysis; an inventory of regional energy, emissions, and costs; and an analysis of public infrastructure vulnerable to storm surge.

Understanding Climate Change Threats to Transportation in Rhode Island

Amanda Martin, Principal Planner
Rhode Island Department of Administration, Statewide Planning Program

Rhode Island residents and officials are taking seriously the threats posed by sea level rise and coastal storms.Critical infrastructure and valuable real property are located on Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.With each major storm, officials make difficult decisions about how and where to fund the repair of damaged public assets like roads, bridges, and sea walls.The State and its municipalities have a growing awareness of the need to prepare for sea level rise, in addition to responding to flood events as they occur. Before the State and its cities and towns can make decisions about armoring, repairing, elevating, replacing, or abandoning infrastructure, stakeholders need a greater understanding of where the State is most at risk for significant impact.

The Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program and several of its partners, including the University of Rhode Island (URI) and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, are aiming to close that knowledge gap by undertaking statewide mapping of transportation assets' vulnerability to coastal inundation.The project builds on critical groundwork established by the URI Sea Grant and the URI Environmental Data Center in a pilot study focused on North Kingstown.Like the pilot study, the statewide project will rely on Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data to analyze the assets exposed to water under a standard set of sea level rise and storm surge scenarios.

The statewide project will produce an atlas of vulnerable transportation infrastructure for use by local planning offices, emergency management officials, transportation officials, departments of public works, and others.Detailed maps for coastal areas in Rhode Island will highlight the facilities at risk for inundation including roads, bridges, evacuation routes, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, where the data are available.Through coordination with URI's College of the Environment and Life Sciences, the project will benefit from advanced modeling of erosion rates, storm surge, and armoring scenarios in the coastal towns of North Kingstown and South Kingstown.

Gauging exposure to climate hazards like sea level rise is a very complex first step to understanding vulnerability and risk.After completing the maps, the project team will assess a subset of individual transportation assets for sensitivity to inundation, ability of the transportation network to adapt to a partial loss of functionality, likelihood of the inundation scenario occurring, and the social impact of inundation (e.g. cost to elevate).This analysis will create a relative ranking of vulnerability and risk of different transportation facilities.The methodology for this second phase of the project builds on the data-driven FHWA Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Framework and pilot projects. At the same time, with FHWA funding and support, the URI Sea Grant/Coastal Resources Center is engaging North Kingstown stakeholders in developing adaptation priorities through a participatory process based on pilot-stage mapping.The lessons learned from both the community engagement approach and the data-driven approach will support the work of other communities in Rhode Island to prioritize adaptation strategies after the map atlas is complete.

For more information on Rhode Island's work on the vulnerability of transportation assets to sea level rise and storm surge, please contact Amanda Martin (amanda.martin@doa.ri.gov).

New England PSC Region 1 Partners Hold Meeting Focused on Grantees

Rosemary Monahan (EPA), Noah Dorius (HUD), Joanne Weinstock (Federal Transit Administration (FTA)), and Corey Bobba (FHWA-Rhode Island Division)

Supporting partners and grantees is an essential activity for the PSC in Region 1. A recent grantee, the MPO for Rhode Island (RI), requested information on experience and lessons learned by other, previous PSC grantees.  At the time RI was embarking on their three-year grant and this knowledge would support their efforts to capture the most success.  PSC agencies learned that this was a common request from partners and grantees, and in response, Region 1 staff hosted a meeting for grantees that received funding or technical assistance from the Federal partners in the region.  The goal of the meeting was for participants to learn from each other about sustainable communities strategies and tools and the results they hope to achieve. The meeting took place at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA and attracted 97 public officials from municipal, State, and Federal government.

The Federal partners worked collaboratively with the grantees to develop the agenda, which was designed to maximize the time for grantee interaction and networking.  The meeting began with a regional perspective that covered how New England communities are linked with respect to the economy, demographic shifts associated with post-industrial challenges, and the impacts of climate change.

The agenda also included discussions on social equity and meeting the future measurement and implementation challenges of sustainable communities planning and development work.  Individual meeting sessions were structured into topic panels, presentations, and facilitated discussions on a diverse range of topics including:

Federal participants included staff from HUD, EPA, FTA, the USDA Rural Development, FHWA Headquarters, and the FHWA Rhode Island Division Office, as well as representatives from the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.  Feedback from the event was positive, and Region 1 is considering hosting an annual gathering of this nature.

For more information, contact Rosemary Monahan at Monahan.rosemary@epamail.epa.gov, Noah Dorius at noah.dorius@hud.gov, Joanne Weinstock at joanne.weinstock@dot.gov, or Corey Bobba at corey.bobba@dot.gov.

Map of focus areas for the Region 1 (New England) PSC, as described in caption. Image includes inset boxes of specific regions and localities.

Figure 5: Map of focus areas for the Region 1 (New England) PSC

Map of PSC grants and assistance in Region 1 (New England), as described in caption. Image includes various grant types from EPA, DOT, and HUD.

Figure 6: Map of PSC grants and assistance in Region 1 (New England)

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Announcements/New Resources :

  • The 2014 National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Grant Program is accepting proposals until July 15, 2013. Future "Requests for Proposals" will be announced in January of each year.
  • The USDA is accepting applications under the Intermediary Relending Program to provide loans that prompt new business development in rural areas.
Updated: 04/01/2014
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