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Challenge - Coordinating transportation projects using a comprehensive approach
In the late 2000s, Greenwood, Mississippi, a city of approximately 16,000, located in the Mississippi Delta, decided to develop a plan for prioritizing transportation and infrastructure projects and identifying other opportunities for its community. Many projects related to transportation, public health, equity, neighborhood revitalization, sustainability, and historic preservation were coming underway or receiving interest and were often implemented independently of each other. Greenwood wanted a way to organize its approach and think strategically.
Bicyclists participate in a local bicycle
event Source: City of Greenwood
Improving quality of life was a key consideration for the City of Greenwood as it began moving forward. In the 1960s and 1970s, economic development in Greenwood turned away from the downtown core, focusing primarily along highways and roads leading away from the city. The city’s transportation system had limited sidewalks and bicycle-friendly routes and lacked integrated connections to schools and to recreational areas such as trails and parks. Oriented primarily toward the automobile, Greenwood wanted to offer more and safer transportation choices for all residents. Greenwood began to build its activities incrementally, leveraging in-house resources and external funding opportunities.
Solution - Developing and implementing a comprehensive plan
Greenwood’s Comprehensive Plan - adopted in 2010 and the first update of the Plan since 1978 - was the first step for the City to unite all of the different project ideas under a single framework and provide a strategic approach for the future. The Plan guides the city’s future economic, social, and physical development, and identifies challenges and opportunities to support the community’s vision for the next 30 years.
With the Plan in place, the City of Greenwood moved to implement its recommendations. Two of the recommendations focused on improving the city’s transportation / traffic circulation system and establishing a more balanced transportation network, which also indirectly involved health and equity considerations.
To implement these recommendations, the City is using a step-by-step approach, providing the facilities needed for safe walking and bicycling. This includes the use of the “Complete Streets” concept, which focuses on promoting transportation networks that are safe for all users. In 2012, Greenwood became the first community in the Delta to pass a Complete Streets policy. The resolution encourages the inclusion of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure (e.g., sidewalks, bicycle-share lanes) in transportation projects. These projects, including those with streetscape and accessibility improvements for people with disabilities, are helping to revitalize downtown Greenwood and provide safe transportation options for residents and visitors.
Funding and Support - Leveraging resources to promote integrated projects
The City of Greenwood works with community partners to identify funding opportunities for transportation projects. Funding has come from a range of sources over the years, including the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the FHWA Transportation Alternatives Program, and Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS). The City also leverages its own resources, through providing local matching funds as well as using in-house expertise to prepare grant applications. Strong support from local leaders, including Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams, has advanced a vision for Greenwood of a city with a bustling downtown, where community residents and visitors can travel safely to their destinations, no matter their transportation mode.
One of Greenwood’s recent projects, the Howard and Johnson Street Streetscape Improvement Project, focused on two of the primary streets in downtown Greenwood. The project included streetscaping, historic street lighting, and sidewalks to encourage a “sense of place” for the city’s central business district and improve walkability and aesthetics. MDOT provided $1.3 million in FHWA Transportation Enhancement funding for the project. After the project ended in 2010, the City continued revitalization activities in the downtown, extending improvements to Main Street, another primary downtown street, and installed bicycle racks, benches, and street signs indicating the city’s historic areas. Funding from the FHWA Transportation Alternatives Program ($1.1 million) provided support for the Main Street Greenwood Streetscape Improvement Project.
The City is also developing Rail Spike Park, a linear park that will transform an old railroad right-of-way adjacent to Johnson Street to a multi-purpose path for bicyclists and pedestrians. Local funding came from re-appropriated funds when city officials decided to use funds originally set aside for road construction to instead advance the park to the Highway 82 Bypass. A second phase of the project, supported by an $800,000 MDOT grant, will extend the park. The City is also using SRTS funding to provide connections from Rail Spike Park to nearby schools so that students have opportunities to walk and bicycle to school safely.
Results - Improved quality of life and transportation options
Map of Downtown Greenwood
Source: Community Link, Greenwood, MS
Greenwood continues to identify ways to improve quality of life downtown. New sidewalks and streetscape improvements in Baptist Town, one of Greenwood’s oldest African - American neighborhoods, improve pedestrian safety. Stencils and signage on several downtown roads now indicate the shared use of lanes by motorists and bicyclists; Greenwood is the first city in Mississippi to integrate shared lanes into its transportation network.
Greenwood’s message is to "take the first step." The City regularly prioritizes projects and determines how it can achieve community goals and leverage funding effectively. This step-by-step approach is helping Greenwood be an active, thriving, and healthy community.
Greenwood’s efforts are also inspiring others. The city has received recognitions from several organizations, including as a 2012 Healthy Hometown by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Mississippi, that acknowledge the city's continuing work to promote active living activities, quality of life, and downtown revitalization.