What happens when you throw together three main federal agencies, add their respective regional administrators and then throw in local and state interests? A pessimistic perspective might say “brawl”—but with EPA, HUD and DOT Region 10 Administrators leading the charge, score one for the good team. Last week, the William Ruckelshaus Center facilitated an excellent meeting of public officials, electeds, federal agency honchos, and non-profit leaders to brainstorm how we can all work together toward more sustainable communities. It’s part of a new collaborative between those three federal agencies.
Specifically, we talked about four things.
One: barriers to implementing sustainable communities (think nonmotorized funding or conflicting transportation priorities).
Two: what opportunities are created (think better bike/ped/transit integration or just plain more people on bikes).
Three: what actions should be taken now (think funding innovative bicycle facilities or federal complete streets legislation).
Four: funding (think millions of dollars for bicycle projects and planning or bike superhighways like London).
I offered a much-needed bicycle perspective in the land-use and transportation planning realm—I’m not sure that everyone even in that room gets that bicycling is quite the elixir to many of our social, environmental and health problems.
The discussion ended with a report out from each of the administrators from very well-facilitated smaller group sessions to the larger group. So no faking interest there: they must have gotten the message.
One presentation that was tough to swallow: WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond gave one of the keynotes and, despite a hint toward aligning with the new federal initiative, WSDOT may be slow to change—even behind the feds. Specifically, I heard that WSDOT should “incentivize and encourage” and not perform “social engineering” or “cut off the spigot” to get more people out of cars.