Transportation Enhancements Not Only Improve Quality of Life But Also Create Jobs

As landscape architects, we understand the added value our designs bring to projects. Projects that clean stormwater, provide safe methods for children to walk and bike to school, and create a sense of place within a community, are common for landscape architects. These solutions provide benefits that dramatically improve our quality of life.

The significance of federal funding through the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program is unparalleled. Since its inception under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, enhancements have provided tremendous opportunities for landscape architects to work with communities to plan and implement alternative modes of transportation.

My own professional career began at the onset of this legislation. I have been involved with community planning, including transportation enhancements, which are a vital mechanism for implementing a community’s vision. Be it the bicycle and pedestrian program in Boca Raton, Florida; the revitalization of the small Cajun town of Rayne, Louisiana; or the transformation of downtown Baton Rouge into a multi-modal crossroads where transit, social gathering, and the community’s culture meet, I can personally testify that Transportation Enhancements have not only positively affected the economic progress of these communities, but also provided me with business opportunities.

For me, this federal funding program is the needed catalyst that spurs communities (especially the smaller ones) to hire a landscape architect to help them envision an economically dynamic future and a create road map to get there. The master planning process often helps to motivate and guide community leaders in garnering private investment around the project.

A perfect example of this is in Downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than twenty years, the downtown development district, which is headed by a landscape architect, has helped secure more than $2 billion of public and private investments in the downtown. I was fortunate to have worked on one such investment project, the North Boulevard Town Square, an $8.1 million dollar project that is the community’s “living room” where organized and spontaneous activities occur. It’s a gathering place and incorporates multi-modal transportation / circulation from the downtown to the rest of the city. One fourth of the project’s budget comes from the Transportation Enhancement program.

The project has employed nearly twenty landscape architects and numerous other consultants and construction workers. The new Town Square was instrumental to Baton Rouge winning the bid to host the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships. Though the first phase of this project has only recently opened, the economic stimulus for the City of Baton Rouge have already begun to pay dividends.

Should the transportation bill be passed by Congress without dedicated funding for Enhancement Programs such as pedestrian / bicycle facilities, landscape enhancements, and safe routes to schools, the development of our communities will surely falter in an already struggling economy.

This guest post is by Chad D. Danos, FASLA, PLA, a landscape architect with Duplantis Design Group and Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

This is the second 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 credit: North Boulevard Town Square, Baton Rouge, Louisiana / Chad Danos

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