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bracket graphic Programs & Regulations bracket graphic Smart Growth Conference Summary

Smart Growth/ Smart Transportation
Conference Summary
Opening Remarks by Parker F. Williams

DECEMBER 9, 1999

(15 minutes)

Thank you, Neil. Welcome to the Smart Growth Smart/Transportation Conference.

It is gratifying to see more than 250 people interested in this endeavor. Today, we will focus on on strategies to make transportation and Smart Growth work together effectively.

The agenda is packed, with Governor Parris N. Glendening giving the keynote speech at lunch, so we have a lot to look forward to.

Although Smart Growth was implemented several years ago, it takes a while for people to adapt to change. Transportation agencies are no different. We are learning, just like you, what Smart Growth means and how it can best work for Maryland. Id like to tell you a bit about where we are with Smart Growth.

Last year, SHA reviewed the entire capital program to put it to the "Smart Growth Test." We looked at each project to see where it fell on the map – inside or outside priority funding areas. As you know, the counties established the PFA’s and municipalities are automatically PFAs.

Many projects that did not fall within the PFA’s were grandfathered because they received NEPA approval prior to October 1, 1998, and were too far in the process to pull.

Several of you were directly involved when we reviewed all projects as to how they fit into Smart Growth. The review resulted in five bypasses being eliminated from our Consolidated Transportation Program. This was not the most politically popular decision, but it was the right thing to do if we’re serious about stopping sprawl and preserving our Maryland’s landscape for current and future generations. These communities are going to see some relief to traffic congestion, just with other improvements that are smart transportation solutions.

SHA now looks beyond the parochial view of Smart Growth and is taking a new approach to projects. We ask a very important question: will a project encourage development where it is targeted, or will it cause development where it is not intended or wanted?


Smart Growth is many things … an initiative … programs … law – but most of all, it is vision. Simply put, it is a philosophy that guides our way of doing business.

The philosophy of Smart Growth certainly has led us to changes as an agency. Our funding level is the same – it is just in a different place. Instead of funding sprawl-creating super highways in the suburbs, we now invest taxpayer dollars to help reinvigorate older communities and improve existing infrastructure.

Let me tell you one of the paths SHA traveled to help us get to this point. As you know, the Governor has a vision for the State – to make it the best place to live, work and raise a family.

A key element of Smart Growth is reinvesting in older communities. Back when Smart Growth was first introduced, it was hard for us to see how it related to a highway agency.

We build and maintain roads – we move cars and trucks. Ah ha – that’s where we weren’t thinking about the big picture. We needed to think about moving people … helping people move – to travel to work, school, soccer practice, and church or leisure activities.

In many neighborhoods, people HAVE to get in their car for a quick trip for milk, because there are no sidewalks to travel by foot! The layout of the community is not conducive to other modes of transportation – stores are in malls and strip centers, separate from residences. Smart Growth takes this reality on to try to reverse this trend.

The State’s Neighborhood Conservation and Urban Revitalization programs, along with the sidewalk retrofit program, put SHA engineers into older communities to improve traffic problems and enhance our existing network. The goal is to make communities more livable.

Ok – we thought, we can do that. We took our plans to a town meeting and showed people what we could to do for them. Imagine our surprise when people didn’t like what we presented – all of our designs and work for nothing!

We forgot to ask them what THEY wanted.

We were taking a great new idea – Smart Growth – and still doing business our old way. So the Governor challenged us as a group to start viewing our role differently – to see how far we could stretch ourselves and involve customers early in the process.

So now when we think of Smart Growth at SHA, we also "Think Beyond the Pavement." Maryland hosted a national conference in May 1998 involving engineers, landscape architects, environmentalists and other stakeholders to examine a change in philosophy and establish some criteria for a good project that integrates critical elements with the surrounding area.

Incidentally, the original title for the conference was "Context Sensitive Design." That would really get people excited, huh?

So we saw the light and realized we really needed to stretch ourselves, so the "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" program was born.

The conference was the beginning of a national initiative where principles of an excellent project were adopted. Maryland is one of five pilot states to carry the initiative forward. Last month, we hosted a statewide conference to bring more planners, engineers and architects into the fold and develop implementation strategies.

We next applied the Thinking Beyond the Pavement principles to charettes, or debriefings, of five Neighborhood Conservation projects across the state. We’re using what we learned from those sessions to help us improve as we move more community-based projects to fruition.

Many of the Thinking Beyond the Pavement principles and ideas crossover to Smart Growth, which puts us right where the needs are, right into older established communities.

We have had some successes and we are learning more and more as we move forward.

The Neighborhood Conservation Program, for which the Governor just tripled the funding from $50 million to $150 million, has been one of the most popular and very effective.

For instance, as part of the Central Avenue at Addison Road improvements in Prince George’s County, we were able to make a pedestrian friendly environment. There are many businesses that surround a nearby metro station. This project demonstrates how an urban area can be a more attractive and safe for pedestrians; it is an example of how mixed-use development can work.

Another success was MD 343 in Cambridge – we improved the roadway, added sidewalks and enhancements. Seeing the benefits to their area, local businesses also improved their properties, magnifying the impact of our Smart Growth efforts.

And we put our Thinking Beyond the Pavement principles to work when we met with Mt. Rainier, a transit-oriented community near D.C. that felt the state road divided their community. We worked with them on the design and we will start construction on a new roundabout soon. The town is anxious to get their project underway.

So that is where we are and where we’ve been. SHA is moving forward with many programs that support Smart Growth:

Neighborhood Conservation and Urban Reconstruction programs – as mentioned before, these programs revitalize older communities and address transportation needs

Sidewalk Retrofit program – Building sidewalks on state roads -- the state can pay for 100 percent or half, depending on where the road is situated.

National Recreational Trails Program – Provides funding for all kinds of recreational trails.

Partnership Planting program – We work with community groups to improve the aesthetics of their neighborhood

Ridesharing Program – Encourages transit and ridesharing through construction of park and ride lots. Local jurisdictions help identify needs.

Access Management Program – Coordinates land-use and access to highways with the goal of economic growth and rational development while maintaining safety and mobility.

Sound barrier program – We can provide relief to communities that predate our highway system, improving the quality of life for many "neighbors" of the highway

Scenic Byways Program – This program identifies scenic and historically significant routes for tourism development and funding for corridor management plans.

Enhancements Program – the federal program allows SHA to participate in non-traditional projects like bike paths, museums, and easements.

CHART- our Coordinated Highways Action Response Team – our technological answer to not building more highways. CHART allows us to use closed circuit television cameras, sensors and weather towers to gather and disseminate traffic information and provide a quick response to incidents. CHART allows us to handle traffic in densely populated areas without building more highways.

We also incorporate transit options in our planning studies and work hand-in-hand with MTA to explore more than just highway solutions. Ron Freeland, MTA Administrator is here today along with many of his staff.

These programs are outlined in a booklet in your packet. We don’t want to stop with our programs though – we want to continue to move Smart Growth forward and make Smart Transportation decisions. Smart means informed, educated – that is where this conference will help us as we move forward.

This conference today will help us learn what your ideas, needs and concerns are about transportation and Smart Growth. As a group, we have a unique opportunity to help shape the way transportation and Smart Growth will evolve as we enter the 21st Century. I’ve outlined some challenges for all of us to consider as we participate and learn from each other today:

Think about how projects are consistent with the spirit and intent of Smart Growth, rather than just what is legally compliant with Smart Growth.

How can we more effectively manage congestion rather than trying to build our way out of it?

How can we re-focus transportation planning to manage demand as well as provide additional capacity?

What will we do as congestion builds outside of PFA’s to resist pressure to build additional capacity to relieve it?

How can we achieve dense, transit-oriented development around transit stations?

How can we change the skill set and mind set in state and local transportation staffs, consultants and contractors to respond to changing needs?

What can be done to coordinate land use and transportation when decisions are made at various levels of government?

What can we do to make communities walkable?

How can we provide different transportation choices in a cost-effective manner?

Will we be able to garner more public acceptance of mixed-use development?

How do we tackle the public education, effective partnering and consensus building needed to make Smart Growth work?

What can we do to develop projects that are sensitive to the communities in which they are located – Thinking beyond the Pavement."

I hope all of you will enjoy the day. We are also pleased to have planning and transportation leaders here to guide the program. It is with pleasure that I welcome my boss, Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari.


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