Federal Support for Smart Planning Is on the Line Tomorrow

Tomorrow, a Senate panel will vote on two budget bills for FY2012, one of which is for transportation and housing programs. The draft of the bill isn’t available until after the subcommittee markup tomorrow, but Smart Growth America is calling attention to the fact that it’s important to make sure the bill includes funding for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the partnership between USDOT, the EPA, and HUD.

Normal, Illinois' multimodal transportation center, funded with a TIGER grant from the Partnership. Image: Normal, Illinois

Through the partnership, the three agencies have coordinated transportation and land use policy to a greater extent than they did before, helping to curb sprawl and promote smart growth. This partnership has taken the federal agencies out of their “stovepipe” mentality and encouraged efficiency and collaboration at an unprecedented level. Why would lawmakers who want to reduce inefficiencies and waste in the federal government want to cut a program that has been so effective at doing just that?

Last fall, Mariia Zimmerman from HUD told Streetsblog that the Partnership has standardized guidelines to make it easier to apply for grants and eliminated some areas of inefficiency, overlap, and even direct contradiction among the agencies. But perhaps more importantly, she said the Partnership has transformed all of HUD, incorporating a focus on sustainability in all of the agency’s work.

A vote of support from the Senate would mean a lot to the Partnership, which saw its funding stripped in the House proposal for next year’s budget. But the Partnership isn’t the only potential casualty of the House plan: Highway and transit funding each get slashed by 34 percent, TIGER and TIGGER grants are cut entirely, high-speed rail gets nothing, the New Starts transit program gets slashed, and Amtrak is left gasping for air. If the Senate subcommittee doesn’t vote to save funding for these programs tomorrow, they have no chance.

See the Smart Growth America action alert for more information.