As the Transportation Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development team up to award planning money for "sustainable community" projects, what should they be looking for?
The DOT and HUD formally announced last week that they're making available $75 million for planning on "projects that integrate transportation, housing and economic development." Those projects could include anything from zoning changes allowing more development near transit centers to freight corridors designed for minimum impact on the surrounding area. The alliance is intended to ease the bureaucracy of dealing with multiple agencies. DOT's share of the money is $35 million in TIGER II Planning Grants.
"Livability" has been a common theme in the Transportation Department under Secretary Ray LaHood. A year ago, DOT, HUD and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a sustainable communities partnership, and the current DOT/HUD collaboration has been in the works for months. LaHood wrote on the department's blog recently: "It's pretty clear that housing and transportation decisions affect each other, and the best projects build that relationship into their planning. So it only makes sense to build the housing-transportation relationship into how we evaluate those projects for funding awards."
So now that money is being given out, let's talk about its best use. What kinds of projects should get highest priority? Are there any projects held up in planning purgatory that you'll be happy to see get a smoother ride? What projects around the country could be used as models? Is there a danger that one kind of project could be favored over another, or one region over another?