What’s the political mindset these days that proposes to eliminate one of the most successful federal programs for community mobility and planning? I can tell you from my own experience, and those of my colleagues in Arizona, that the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program has built some of the best connections for pedestrians and cyclists in the Phoenix metro area, and around the state, providing transportation options through neighborhoods and along busy arterial streets.
The local Council of Governments working group, on which I served until 2009, has reviewed hundreds of walkways and multi-use paths and recommended that they be funded, enhancing people’s ability to get around in our car-oriented metropolis. Many crucial links through neighborhoods — including connections to schools and to workplaces — have been built through this program over 20 years.
Beyond the metro area, a number of programs have had a positive effect on mobility and the local economy, including the Flagstaff Urban Trail System, which has connected its neighborhoods to local schools and to its downtown and other commercial centers; Tucson’s river paths; and Glendale’s and Chandler’s canal paths, which provide safe passage for commuting cyclists to workplaces downtown or for students traveling to universities and community colleges.
And it’s not just about the transportation linkages that have been built. I remember walking with Congressman Blumenauer (OR-D), in 2001, along West Fifth Street in Tempe, Arizona, showing him how the TE funding was a catalyst for reinvesting in a transient and aging neighborhood near Arizona State University and downtown. With traffic calming measures like removing a traffic signal in favor of a four-way stop, raising intersections for safer pedestrian crossings, a wider walkway separated from traffic, adding bike lanes, street trees, and public art, suddenly there was both public and private interest in reinvestment. The city redid the neighborhood park and built a new community center; homes and apartments were improved and new housing was built. Stormdrain improvements were made to correct periodic flooding, and fiberoptic lines were laid, upgrading access to the Internet. Because dedicated TE funding was available, there have been major improvements in the ability of school children to get to their neighborhood school and university students to get to classes.
Those improvements created a wide variety of construction and permanent jobs and stabilized the neighborhood. A win-win for everyone.
Of course, landscape architects were the ones to step up and provide the design and construction services necessary to realize the city’s vision. Cities can choose a firm most suited to the project and be assured the project would move forward. We can all see the results of the federal investment of our money.
But landscape architects are not the only ones to benefit from TE funding. Think of all those neighborhoods, school children, families, and students who have been served, all the businesses that benefit from the additional pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and the lives saved because there are safer transportation options available. So tell us who else benefits from these projects so we can let Congress now know how valuable this program has been and can continue to be.
This guest post is by Angela Dye, FASLA, LEED AP, principal of A DYE DESIGN, and former president of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
This is the first in a series of guest posts by landscape architects across the country who use federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding to design projects that improve their communities and create jobs. This series illustrates how landscape architects help create the active transportation infrastructure that cities and towns across the country are demanding. Current legislative proposals would eliminate dedicated funding for the TE program. Use the ASLA Advocacy Network to let Congress know that walkable, bikeable communities are a priority in your community.
Image credits: (1) TE funding led to a safer route to school and a bike-friendly designation for the city, (2) With a new walkway, children have a safer way to the community center. Tempe, Arizona, 2000 / Angela Dye