James Brooks, Roger Williams and Mark Weinheimer contributed to this post.
Far too many in this country face a transportation infrastructure that is woefully inadequate, limiting opportunities and increasing costs in terms of people’s time and money. While other countries continue to invest, America’s aging infrastructure inhibits our nation’s economic competitiveness and lessens quality of life.
In recognition of National Infrastructure Week 2014, NLC is joining a number of national organizations to call attention to the consequences of inaction and the importance of interconnected infrastructure that provides a safe, secure and competitive climate for economic development and job growth.
On topics such as infrastructure funding and financing and the economic impact of public transportation investment, NLC will call attention to why further infrastructure investment is vital for our nation’s cities.
We ask for local leaders and advocates in the policy community to join NLC in advocating for policies that are informed and driven by local needs. At stake is not merely how quickly we can move people from Point A to Point B – but how we can promote opportunity and build stronger local economies.
The Twin Cities Story
One case in point is the impact of investment on the Central Corridor (The Green Line) light rail project in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Despite concerns that partnerships take time and large projects consume resources, study after study shows that transportation alternatives that are regionally focused, cost effective, located close to affordable housing and that connect residents to their jobs help make cities more amenable to innovative industries.
The relationships that were forged by the Twin Cities, as they undertook the Central Corridor light rail project connecting their downtowns, is an example of how cities are coming together with a wide range of partners to overcome obstacles and make transformational projects a reality.
Working with the philanthropic community and a broad spectrum of civic organizations that serve the communities impacted by the project, local leaders in the Twin Cities developed a template for planning that other cities can learn from. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation not only contributed dollars to the project but restructured funding formulas to ensure the addition of light rail stations in underserved minority neighborhoods along the proposed route.
Far reaching strategic alliances and a “plan-full” approach that involved diverse groups, along with the leadership roles played by various actors and sectors, are the key elements that have enhanced this project’s chances for success. The leaders were able to successfully create a shared vision for vibrancy, economic viability, and neighborhood resilience.
The result is not only a new light rail line, but an increased number of affordable homes nearby, preservation of other homes, new arts and cultural offerings, and a vital retail sector that reflects the ethnic diversity of the communities along the rail line.
The Central Corridor light rail line which is scheduled to open in mid-2014 will also provide cost effective transportation for the residents to connect them to jobs in both cities and in the region, and in general strengthen the attractiveness of living in these communities.
About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement. Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.