Report Roundup: Infrastructure Research Review, End of Summer 2012

Infrastructure Research Review

ULI Infrastructure Initiative offers quick reviews of new reports on transportation, infrastructure, and land use.

 

In this inaugural edition of the Report Roundup, we cover walkable urbanism, transportation investments, and infrastructure finance.

Walkable Urbanism

ULI Washington and George Washington University held a conference on September 11 featuring the release of Christopher Leinberger’s new report, The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: The Nation’s Capital as a National Model for Walkable Urban Places. Watch for a coming Infrastructure Blog post that will dig into WalkUPs in more detail.

Did you know that over 350 “complete streets” policies are in place in communities across the United States? The National Complete Streets Coalition offers a review of the most successful complete streets policies, including examples from California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey. A companion policy workbook guides communities through the adoption process.

Sometimes good things come with impenetrable titles. The Transit Cooperative Research Program’s Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes Handbook, Third Edition; Chapter 16, Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities, provides an exhaustive, 500-page review of national and international studies on pedestrian and bicycle facilities and programs. The report asks the age old question: if we build it, will they come? When it comes to sidewalks, bike paths, and a range of other interventions, the answer is a big yes, most of the time. Numerous tables attempt to summarize these happy results, and a slideshow of photographs is available for separate download, but the report itself is designed for specialists.

Transportation Investments—American Style

A joint report out of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Eno Center for Transportation examines the state and local response to a 35% cut in federal funding for surface transportation. (The 35% cut approximates what would happen if Congress ever decides to make the Highway Trust Fund live within its current means.) Their findings, summarized in Consequences of Underinvesting in Transportation: The Need for Sustainable Solutions, predict that state governments and transit agencies would attempt to replace some of the lost federal funding, but with varying degrees of success. In the end, metropolitan areas and transit service would be the hardest hit by cuts in federal spending.

NRDC released a poll of 800 Americans, showing that if “transit service” was running for office, it would win in a landslide. Across the political spectrum, Americans want more transportation options; two-thirds “favor setting new standards for local planning that guide new development into existing cities and or near public transportation.”

If changing American transportation preferences and nightmare funding scenarios leave state departments of transportation in search of some new tools for their toolbox, they might want to take a gander at a handbook just put out by the State Smart Transportation Initiative and Smart Growth America. The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice “provides 31 recommendations transportation officials can use as they position their agencies for success in the new economy,” and it includes a chapter on land use. The intent is a “living document” examining innovations happening now in state DOT’s.

Infrastructure Finance

From the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, Banking on Infrastructure: Enhancing State Revolving Funds for Transportation looks at state infrastructure banks (SIB’s) and reveals that since “established in the 1990s they have provided billions in financing for more than 1,000 projects mostly focused on the 100 largest metropolitan areas. However, this activity is highly concentrated in just a few states as many SIBs are underutilized or inactive.” The report explains the difference between state revolving loan funds and infrastructure investment funds and surveys how US states have used the former to invest in water/wastewater, clean energy, and transportation. The report includes brief case studies of SIB’s in South Carolina, California, Florida, Virginia, Kansas, and Georgia and concludes with recommendations for policy and practice.

From the Center for American Progress, a report whose title pretty much tells it all: Creating a National Infrastructure Bank and Infrastructure Planning Council: How Better Planning and Financing Options Can Fix Our Infrastructure and Improve Economic Competitiveness. The authors make their case in 27 quick pages.

And last, but not least, the Reason Foundation takes on Ten Myths and Facts on Transportation Public-Private Partnerships. Don’t fear PPP’s, the authors implore. Thick contracts between the public and private sectors protect your interests in ways a traditional toll authority acting alone never could. The authors helpfully explain why setting toll rates is a policy decision that needs to be negotiated and why good contracts cap the rate of return for private investors. They also demystify the “non-compete clause,” leading this reader to wonder: will transportation and land use plans soon be designating “non-compete areas” as an overlay zone?

*****

If you know of a new report on transportation or infrastructure, please forward a link to infrastructure@uli.org. The Infrastructure Initiative is especially interested in covering reports that include an international perspective or that speak to local issues in a way that offer lessons for global audiences.

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