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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
|One set of questions from participants focused on the role of state DOTs in funding "alternative" projects. A participant from local government noted that their state DOT primarily funds roads and that it is difficult to obtain funding for transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects. Another noted the "mythical flexibility of highway funds" and that in many states it is a difficult political fight to free up highway resources for other projects. Mr. Millar responded that no one starts with money - only good ideas - and that people need to develop ideas that capture peoples' imaginations and then look at how to assemble resources. He also noted that $1.5 billion in highway funds have been transferred to other projects this year, mostly in a small number of states, although to date 45 states have made some use of the flexibility provision. Also, DOTs can change, as evidenced by the fact that Caltrans is now responsible for one of the largest transfers of funds and represents a high transit use state. "Today's exception can become tomorrow's norm." |
A second set of questions focused on the role of MPOs in land use. A participant noted that their MPO is "tacitly supportive" of land use strategies, but is reluctant to get involved in land use planning issues since they don't view themselves as a land use agency. Ms. Oakley responded they may need pressure from the bottom up to "get into the land use business." This may mean working with jurisdictions on local comprehensive plans to beef up transportation components, which will force a dialogue with the MPO. Ms. Twaddell noted that in Charlottesville, transportation and development principles must be included in both the long-range transportation plan and local comprehensive plans. Mr. Kienitz noted that the MPO is really two different groups: the MPO staff and the MPO board. The board is somehow accountable to the public. The strength and power of the staff vs. the board varies among MPOs. Be opportunistic and know who you are dealing with.
One participant expressed frustration over the difficulty of balancing federal requirements to develop a 25-year long-range plan -- containing specific projects -- with the need to study the environmental and community impacts of each project before approving it. Ms. Oakley noted that an MPO cannot fund a major investment study in its long-range plan, and needs to have a project, not idea. One solution might be to put a "dotted line" on the map representing a road study (not funded for construction) that would make a good candidate for an MIS.