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Sustainable Highways Initiative

FHWA Sustainability Activities Webinar Series: Access and Affordability
Webinar Transcript

Thursday, May 28, 2:00-3:00 P.M. Eastern

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This webinar highlighted Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sustainability activities that relate to access and affordability. Improving access to transportation and its affordability benefits the social and economic aspects of sustainability by improving employment opportunities, enhancing interaction with the community, and incorporating social equity principles inherent in civil rights. In addition, access improvements that increase the modal choices available to the public advance environmental sustainability by offering alternatives to motorized travel, such as walking and bicycling. The webinar also featured representatives at the State and local level working to advance access and affordability.


The presenters included:

  • Connie Hill of the FHWA Office of Natural Environment;
  • Alex Oster of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center;
  • Candace Groudine of the FHWA Office of Civil Rights;
  • Dean Perkins of the Florida Department of Transportation;
  • Karin Hilding of the City of Whitefish, Montana;
  • Corey Bobba of the FHWA Rhode Island Division Office; and
  • Matt Ouellette of Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

Full Transcript

Connie Hill

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Connie Hill, and I'm an Environmental Protection Specialist on the Sustainable Transport and Climate Change Team in the FHWA's Office of Natural Environment. I'm also standing in today for Mike Culp, who's our Team Leader, and thanking you all for joining us in the first of a series of webinars that we are very excited about, and pleased to offer. The series is based on a report that FHWA released in June of 2014 that highlights the activities and initiatives within Program Offices across the Agency that advance and support sustainability. The report showcases what we call sustainability action areas, and it's called Advancing a Sustainable Highway System, Highlights of FHWA Sustainability Activity. The action areas that are identified in the report were done with input from the FHWA Sustainability Working Group, which represents the agency's Program Offices that are responsible for delivering the Federal Aid Highway Program.

Today's webinar features the Access and Affordability action area and will be presented by Candace Groudine, Senior Policy and Regulatory Specialist in FHWA's Office of Civil Rights. We're also pleased to have several other presenters who will join Candace and share stories and examples from their agencies, describing how they have successfully addressed transportation, access, and affordability needs, and in doing so, supported the principles of sustainability. Our other presenters are Dean Perkins, Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator with the Florida DOT; Karin Hilding, Interim Public Works Director with the City of Whitefish, Montana; Matt Ouellette, Civil Engineer from Rhode Island DOT; and Corey Bobba, Program Development Supervisor with FHWA's Rhode Island Division. Now I will turn things over to Alex Oster, the Community Planner at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who will moderate today's webinar and walk us through the rest of the afternoon.

Alex Oster

Thanks, Connie. Hello, and welcome everyone. As Connie mentioned, my name is Alex Oster and I'm a Community Planner with the U.S. DOT Volpe Center. Before I begin my presentation, I want to cover a few logistical items. As a reminder, all attendees are on mute. Please do go ahead and utilize the chat pod, located at the bottom left of the screen to post questions at any time during the webinar. We will have the speakers address questions during the Q&A session at the end of the webinar. Also, the webinar will be recorded and posted to the FHWA Sustainable Highways Initiative website. To download a copy of today's presentation, go to the file pod in the bottom left of your screen. Finally, throughout today's webinar we will be asking participants to answer poll questions, and we greatly appreciate any and all responses you provide. I will now open up the first poll questions and allow you a few minutes to respond.

I'll just give you a few more seconds to enter in your responses. I know there are quite a few questions there, and we, again, greatly appreciate your responses.

Excellent. We'll go ahead and close the polls now. And again, thanks all of you for your responses. As Connie mentioned, I wanted to briefly introduce FHWA's Sustainability Report before we go into a more detailed presentation on Access and Affordability. The FHWA Advancing Sustainable Highway System, Highlights of the FHWA Sustainability Activities was released in June of 2014. The purpose of the report was to showcase some of the ways in which FHWA is incorporating and embedding sustainability into its activities. This report serves as a resource to the Public Transportation Professionals, and those working within FHWA to help them better understand the various sustainability initiatives moving forward within the agency.

The sustainability report features eight action areas, which are listed on the slide. The action areas represent significant opportunities for new growth and advancement in sustainability for FHWA. They also have high potential for achieving sustainability goals and benefits in the near term. Although not identified as sustainability action areas, the report also includes other key programs and initiatives, such as climate change mitigation and environmental streamlining. Additionally, each section of the report showcases exemplary state, regional, and local examples of sustainable transportation practices. Today's webinar will focus on one of the sustainability action areas, Access and Affordability. Now, before we begin the presentation on Access and Affordability, please take a moment to complete the poll questions on your screen pertaining to the FHWA Sustainability Report.

Excellent. Thank you. I will now turn the webinar over to Candace Groudine with FHWA's Office of Civil Rights.

Candace Groudine

Thank you, Alex. And thank you, Connie. And thank you all for being here today. I'll be talking about the interconnections between sustainability, access, and affordability. In short, what some might refer to as equitable and sustainable development. These are the main premises of my presentation. First, universal accessibility has important implications for a municipality's ability to foster Smart Growth. And by Smart Growth, I mean building urban, suburban, and rural communities with affordable housing; second, transportation choices near jobs, shops, and schools. It's an approach that is—also supports local economies and protects the environment. It's an approach that creates healthy communities with strong local businesses, and it's an approach that creates neighborhoods with schools and shops nearby, and low cost ways to get around for people of all abilities. And third, a municipality must address its infrastructure in a way that ensures accessibility for all. What I'll be referring to as universal accessibility, that is accessibility for persons with and without disabilities.

So why should we care about accessibility? Well, here is some interesting, and I think, eye opening facts. Approximately 56.7 million people in the United States were living with a disability in 2010. And many of those individuals have more than one disability. One of the things that we should always keep in mind is that we are all only temporarily-abled. These facts refer to both institutionalized and non-institutionalized persons, male and female, of all ages, of all races and ethnicities, and those that have either permanent or temporary disabilities. These individuals offer skills, and in many cases, unique sets of skills to the workforce, and they make up a significant market of consumers representing more than 200 billion dollars in discretionary spending in 2010, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. And just a few more, I think, staggering statistics here. Persons with disabilities are employed at significantly lower rates than those without disabilities. The rate of poverty among persons with disabilities is more than double that of persons without disabilities. Persons with disabilities also constitute 40 percent of the persons who have significantly less or no access to transportation. And persons with disabilities are more likely to be a member of a minority population and/or low income population.

Improved affordability of transportation systems benefits the social and economic tenants of sustainability by improving employment and housing opportunities and by enhancing opportunities to interact with the community. A sustainable transportation system is not only safe, healthy, renewable, and accessible, it is also affordable and operates fairly and in a way that provides accessibility to persons of all abilities. What's distinctive about Federal Highway's approach to sustainability is its broader, more holistic approach, for lack of a better word, to accessibility and affordability. Concepts that not only speak to access to jobs, housing, transportation, and so on, and that speak to sound economic principals, but also concepts that address the social equity principal that is part of the foundation of sustainability. Namely, access for all users of transportation and for users of all abilities and access that all users can afford. Sustainability that considers economic, environmental, and social concerns with a long-term perspective. The interconnections I'll be discussing also involve what I'm calling a bridge concept of equitable development. An approach to meet the needs of traditionally underserved communities. Such as, but not exclusive of what we would refer to as Environmental Justice (EJ) populations, that is minorities in low income communities. And it meets the needs of individuals through projects, programs, and/or policies that reduce disparities while fostering places that are healthy, vibrant, accessible, and diverse. Sustainability means considering what's called the triple bottom line. That is social, as well as environmental and economic principles. The notion here is that sustainability aims to satisfy basic social and economic needs, both present and future, by promoting the responsible use of natural resources while maintaining or improving the environment on which life depends. And increasing the modal choices available to the public through accessibility, upgrades, and improvements, that is removing barriers, supports the environmental justice component of sustainability by offering alternatives to motorized travel.

Today we'll be highlighting several projects where municipalities have adopted and embraced sustainable development in ways that have incorporated significant accessibility performance objectives, such as a very high level of ADA Compliance in the Public Rights of Way. That's the Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance in the Public Rights of Way. And briefly describe how this kind of approach has fueled economic growth.

But first, let's take a brief look at what equitable development requires. First—we can pretty much all agree, I think—that transportation is fundamentally about accessibility and mobility. It provides a means of access and the foundation for how we live, how we connect with others, and how our economy grows at the national, regional, and local levels. Second, equitable development requires that transportation in its planning, development, and implementation support mobility for people of varying levels of ability and income. And serve broad community goals, such as economic and community development. The livability principles that are an integral part of sustainable development are really about addressing these kinds of issues. They're about integrating the quality, location, and type of transportation facilities in a way that achieves broad community goals that, in turn, foster social equity and ensures non-discrimination. And third, more specifically, this means such things as installing curb ramps with detectable warnings on sidewalks, and providing accessible pedestrian signals, so that persons with disabilities may cross streets safely. Equitable development also requires that transportation in its planning, development, and implementation, enabled the millions of people who use our transportation system to reach jobs, schools, healthcare, shopping, transit, and other essential services. As Transportation Secretary Fox has noted, “How long it takes, and how much it costs them to accomplish these daily tasks is an important measure that we call connectivity.”

A core part of U.S. DOT's Ladders of Opportunity Initiative is connectivity, that is, measuring how well the transportation network connects people to the places they need to go. So how can we achieve the following triple goal of equitable development? Namely equitable and accessible and sustainable development? There are a number of examples of Federal Highway related projects that demonstrate how municipalities have adopted and embraced sustainable development in a way that incorporates significant accessibility and affordability performance objectives. Now we're going to highlight just a few of them.

Alex Oster

Thanks, Candace. We will now hear from representatives at the state and local level working to advance access and affordability. First up is Dean Perkins from Florida DOT. Go ahead, Dean.

Dean Perkins

Thank you much, Alex. Hello, I'm Dean Perkins. As Alex said, I'm the ADA Coordinator for Florida DOT. I've been in this position since January 1992, where I initiated and have been managing the programs since then. The Florida Department of Transportation has taken fairly progressive and integrative, and we feel, a sustainable approach for ADA Compliance in the provision of accessible facilities and services for Florida travelers. We do not operate accessibility as a separate program, but include it in everything we do.

Since 1992, our approach has integrated, what is often a fragmented program for planning, development, and delivery of safe and accessible transportation projects, and has mainstreamed accessibility into the agency's culture. We feel the best way to manage a proactive sustainable approach is to include accessibility in all aspects of program development and project delivery. As part of the preliminary design environmental process, and using a variety of tools and checklists, each project is evaluated for accessibility needs and scoped accordingly, regardless of the nature of the project. In coordination with our planning, design, safety, construction, and maintenance offices, we install or improve accessible pedestrian facilities within every project and each five-year work program. As we accomplish each project, new ones are added in an attempt to stay ahead of customer needs and keep up with desires. And through our maintenance programs, we strive to keep all facilities accessible to and useful by all users. Training is an integral part of Florida DOT's ADA/504 program. We provide training for participants at every stage of a project: planning, design, construction, inspection, and maintenance. We have an extensive outreach program to some recipients, business partners, and the public, inviting input and providing compliance assessment as needed, and technical support and training as requested. The Department feels that people with disabilities are customers in need of service, and not those with special needs that require accommodations.

After 23 years of this inclusive approach, in effect, a sustainability approach, Florida DOT has determined that pedestrian facilities within our Public Rights of Way—examples: curb ramps, sidewalks, pedestrian signals and etc.—have been transitioned, requiring just maintenance to manage wear and tear, and enhancements to keep up with changing accessibility standards. Florida DOT has found it a less costly to take a comprehensive approach than it is to be faced with fixing a lot of little facilities as separate projects. In short, we have found integrated accessibility to be a sustainable and affordable approach with all of our transportation systems and services. If anyone has questions about Florida DOT's ADA/504 Program, I would be glad to talk with you. Thank you very much.

Alex Oster

Thanks, Dean. And as we noted at the beginning of the webinar, feel free to enter your questions into the chat pod, and we'll address them during the Q&A session at the end of the webinar. We will now have a presentation from Karin Hilding, with the City of Whitefish, Montana.

Karin Hilding

Hi, yeah, I'm Karin Hilding. And I'm the Interim Public Works Director here at the City of Whitefish. And Whitefish is in the northwestern corner of Montana. We're about 45 minutes away by car from Glacier National Park. Our town has about 6,500 residents. And in the summer, you know, we have about a million tourists that come into town, and so it gets very busy in the summer. We also have a ski resort here, so we're busy as well in the winter. So our city has a very traditional downtown area. People love to take pictures on our Central Avenue, looking up at the mountain. It's a beautiful downtown. And there's been a lot of effort over the years to strengthen that downtown and not lose its vitality, or improve its vitality.

So the whole downtown is clustered really around two streets: Central Avenue, which runs north and south; and then Second Street, running east and west. And Second Street, it pretty much bisects the heart of our town. It also happens to be Highway 93. So, and as Highway 93, which does go up to Canada, it carries about 15,000 vehicles per day, and a lot of those vehicles are large trucks. I was looking the other day—it looked like almost half the vehicles coming through town were large trucks. So there was a lot of concern about—probably starting about 20 years ago people were trying to figure out, you know, we needed to revitalize downtown, we needed to reconstruct the roads downtown. And then we also knew that we needed to coordinate it first—the highway that bisects the town, we needed to coordinate with MDT. And so the businesses owners in the downtown area got together with the city and hired a consultant to help us with the Downtown Business District Master Plan. So it was really the business owners downtown were really pushing for that, and helped raised money for that Downtown Master Plan. The group is called The Heart of Whitefish. It's a non-profit organization. And so that Downtown Master Plan was issued in 2005, and it was again updated just recently here in 2015. And the whole purpose of that, basically, was to improve the livability of the community as far as access to downtown, and strengthening the businesses down there, so that our city didn't just sprawl out. So that plan, one of the things that was an offshoot of that, based on their recommendations was that the City invested a lot of money in reconstructing Central Avenue, the road that runs north and south. So we did several phases of reconstruction of that downtown street, Central Avenue, with City Resort Tax dollars.

And then another thing that was happening at that same time was in 2009, I worked together with MDT on a Highway 93 Corridor Study, which was paid for half by MDT, and half by the city. And so as part of that Corridor Study, we looked at improvements to Highway 93, and the one thing that I suggested is we break the project of reconstructing 93 into phases. And so we worked on that, and as part of the Plan, we broke it into phases. And we made as the priority, number one project, Phase 1, the two blocks of Highway 93 that bisect our downtown area. So that became the Number 1 priority project of that 2009 Highway 93 Corridor Study. And it was very much influenced by the Downtown Master Plan, because the Downtown Master Plan said, “Okay, that area of the highway needs to be two lanes wide,” and originally MDT wanted three lanes. And I think years ago they even talked about four lanes. But we were able to convince MDT through that process of working on the Corridor Study in coordination with the Downtown Master Plan to include that project as a Number 1 priority project, and in that Corridor Study, it showed it as a two-lane highway.

So using both of those two studies, the Downtown Master Plan and the Corridor Study, I then worked together with our consultant and applied for a TIGER grant. And I think it was about 2010 when we applied for the TIGER grant. And it was the first phase of the TIGER grant, and we were successful in that grant, which was a wonderful thing, but then also it was actually quite a bit of extra work for me, once we got the grant. But what it enabled us to do is we—actually, it was very unusual for an MDT project that the City had control and was the lead on the design on MDT's Highway—and that's how that worked with those blocks of their highway that bisect our downtown. So we made a lot of effort to make that—we had outdated traffic signals that we worked to get better traffic signals, and that make it easier for people to walk across at those intersections of the highway that are bisecting our downtown, and then we had special—we've got special paving patterns and crosswalks and that—and then landscaping, decorative lighting. It's all ADA-Compliant. And then working on parking. Everything so that it makes it easier for people to walk across the street. And it's quite important, because actually at one corner of that highway where it turns, makes a 90-degree angle as it comes in to our town, we have our middle school, where all of our middle school-aged kids go to school. It's right downtown. And so one of those areas where people are crossing, it's actually school kids crossing. That's the part of that TIGER project.

So what's, I think, a little unique about Whitefish is that we've been making an effort for many years to keep everything that we can downtown so that we do have an accessible community. So there was actually an effort, when the middle school had to be rebuilt about 15 years ago, we said, “Let's just rebuild it in the same spot, downtown.” And so that's what happened. They actually copied the look of the old middle school, but they just built it in the same place, right downtown. Same thing that City Hall, we're in the process of building a new City Hall. We're also on Highway 93 right downtown, and they're going to reconstruct City Hall right in the exact same spot downtown. We have Amtrak. The most popular Amtrak spot in Montana is also right in our downtown. And so the Railroad Depot is right downtown. We have a free SNOW Bus in the winter. We are now also starting to have another bus system. The SNOW Bus has been now going operate in the summer for some travel and take people to Glacier Park from Whitefish at a very minimal cost. And then for riding within town, there'll be no charge.

We also make a lot of effort, the City does, to do Safe Routes to School. And that program kind of has somewhat gone away in Montana, but at least as a separate program. But for about five years, we applied for a Safe Routes to School grant, did a lot of improvements. And you can see the pictures there of the kids biking. We've had about—we've done those for about five years, the Walk and Bike to School Days, and we've had about 80 percent participation. We do it K through 8. And kids, they seem to get very excited about the Walk and Bike to School Days, so we're really trying to work on that, getting—and we have very active teachers at the schools that are helping us with that.

So just, I think, a final thing I was going to mention is that we are updating our Bike/Ped Master Plan, and probably going to call it an Active Transportation Plan. We had Mark Fenton come to Whitefish last summer, who's a big walkable community type guy, and we're actually coordinating on some of this stuff with North Valley Hospital, which is our local hospital, because they're trying to get people to walk and bike more, just for their—to stay healthy. So we're really trying to make Whitefish, yeah, a very easy accessible town that people can just get around easily. And I think in our town, it makes it especially nice for school kids, but also for the elderly. We have a lot of elderly people here, and so making it safe for them to get around. The most tricky time of the year, of course, is the winter when everything's covered in ice. But other than that, I think that's about it!

Alex Oster

Excellent! Thanks, Karin. Our last presentation comes from Matt Ouellette at Rhode Island DOT and Corey Bobba at FHWA Rhode Island Division Office. Take it away!

Corey Bobba

Great, hi, this is Corey. I'm going to start us off here. What I wanted to cover was how we got started with sustainability, but specifically INVEST as our main tool here in Rhode Island. Once INVEST was rolled out, we looked at the three modules and met with our friends and counterparts at the Rhode Island DOT and our MPO, and covered the three modules: System Planning, Project Development, Maintenance and Operations. And with the timing of our work plans here in Rhode Island, the Chief Engineer was the first senior manager to be ready to trial INVEST and move that tool into practice here. So I was very fortunate that he designated great point of contacts for all things sustainable engineering, Matt Ouellette, to work with me on INVEST and any other aspects into the project development phase.

So Matt looked at the transportation program in Rhode Island and came up with a pitch to senior managers to start INVEST, and start looking at all aspects of sustainability and project development. Through that meeting with senior management, he was able to get buy-in to complete three pilots, projects of three different types of scope but that are relatively consistent in the RIDOT step. And I was excited with the first project that was chosen and completed that Matt's going to present here in a minute. This location's actually now going to be a National Park, and it's the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. So something that's very important to the state and the region on sustainability. In the view there from Matt, as he's looking at these INVEST projects are to use INVEST retrospectively with the view of how do we incorporate INVEST broadly across project development as a regular practice in Rhode Island? And with those lessons learned in that institutionalized practice, how can in Rhode Island, how do we take that experience and the project development module, and then take that to assist our planners with the System Planning Module? And our maintenance and operations folks with the Maintenance Module? And so this is an exciting point as the DOT completed its first project, and it's just started its second project. So now I want to turn over the presentation to Matt.

Matt Ouellette

Hello, everyone. Again, this is Matt Ouellette, I'm a Civil Engineer in the Design Section for the Rhode Island DOT. So I just wanted to highlight the first project we looked at, which is one of the bikeways in Rhode Island, the Blackstone River Bikeway. And just kind of highlight some of the access and affordability components that we went through. So first, I ultimately—right now—there's currently sixteen miles of the bikeway constructed, and there's still seven miles to complete. And so ultimately the bikeway will extend through six Rhode Island communities, and will connect to the Massachusetts State Border, and we've worked with Massachusetts to connect with, you know, still to connect with their bikeway in the future, so that people can continue on into Massachusetts.

And in light of affordability, actually the bikeway is a good affordable mode of transportation. It's free and open to the public. Whether it's commuting to work, to schools, to shopping centers, it's you know, free. And there's been a lot of public involvement and education throughout the design process of each of the segments. Communities have had a lot of input in terms of, you know, during the Alternative Analysis, and ultimately, you know, just like in the segment alignments that were built, with the ultimate goal of harmonizing transportation requirements and community values through decision-making and thoughtful design. Also, the river's history is highlighted along the bikeway. There's several interpretive kiosks and overlooks overlooking the River, highlighting some of the history of the historic dams and mills along the corridor. Schools use the bikeway for educational field trips. They've done studies on the water quality of the river, on the wildlife that is near the bike path, such as the dear and turtles that are—that hang out close to the bike path. And you know, then, you know, obviously with the bikeway, you know, improving the safety and convenience of the pedestrian networks for people of all ages and abilities and promoting recreation, health, and quality of life. You know, the bikeway promotes physical activity, obviously, and provides good access from several locations to the Blackstone River, which runs adjacent to, along the whole corridor, so there's several areas that we've incorporated to be able for people to launch canoes and kayaks. So just, you know, promoting, you know, affordable recreation and healthy lifestyle, you know, throughout multiple communities.

So then, getting into the INVEST, we used INVEST retrospectively to evaluate—we focused in on the segments, which is a two-mile segment, which had a combination of on-road, off-road and a section that went through a marsh—actually where we had a raised boardwalk. And so we used the INVEST tool to highlight the DOT's current direction, which is sustainable practices, and where the department could improve. And we did a side-by-side comparison matrix, kind of highlighting those in terms of what the DOT was already considering, where it could improve, and also some conversation points to have with Federal Highway in terms of their continuing to work on improving the INVEST tool. So having multiple purposes to this exercise. And so it seems—going through using the tool, definitely showed that the DOT is definitely incorporating a lot of sustainable practices, and there's some areas where we could even look to incorporate more. Such as road safety audits at intersections where the roadway and the bikeways meet. And also determining the level of effort of public education related to bikeways and mixing with vehicular traffic and whatnot.

So right now, we're working on the next steps which Corey highlighted, where next step is to also do another retrospective evaluation of a roadway researching project, and the one we chose is through a—is in the City of Central Falls, which is a diverse community, economically challenged. They rely heavily on the pedestrian networks for their everyday use, and so we're just about getting started to see about what INVEST can show, and how we've incorporated the sustainable practices and where we can improve in terms of a roadway job.

And then also, as I mentioned, we still have seven miles to complete of the Blackstone Bikeway, and so whether we'd want to take a proactive approach and use INVEST in incorporating through some of the design left to be done on those seven miles left to complete, and see if that can help in terms of improving and be a useful tool throughout the design process of those later segments to complete. So this slide here just kind of highlights—I'll take you through it. The one on the right, I had to break up the map, just shows the tool after all segments are complete, the communities that, you know, just showing how many, you know, extend through the state, and obviously Rhode Island's a densely populated area, so it's, you know, while some of it's off-road and near the river, you're right near shopping centers, you know, a lot of areas of work. So it's definitely, you know, the key is connecting communities. So ultimately on the right, it's gonna extend down to the Central Eastern part of the state, the City of Providence, run north, and then ultimately northwest up through, you know, multiple other communities and then into the City of Woonsocket, where it will connect with the Massachusetts Bikeway. So, and there highlighted in red on the right, is this area we kind of focus in on using the INVEST software with the two mile segment that's been completed. Again, a history of the dam. And the overlooks right there. Middle picture is, you know, some stairs we constructed an access for kayaks and canoes, so that their access to the river. And the one on the right is a school using the path for an educational field trip to study the wildlife and the water quality. So ultimately that kind of wraps up our presentation.

Alex Oster

Excellent. Thanks Corey and Matt. I will now turn the presentation back over to Candace Groudine. Candace?

Candace Groudine

Okay, thank you, Dean, Karin, Corey, and Matt. There are many more examples from around the country from the Complete Streets Policy of Ocean Shores in Washington State to something called Sustain Southern Maine, the regional partnership of organizations, communities and businesses that have adopted an integrated sustainability and accessibility approach to economic development to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments that uses an economic interaction model that simulates the distribution of benefits in terms of equity, accessibility, and economic growth. It's the acknowledgement that sustainable development incorporate the livability principles of universal accessibility and social equity and affordability. In effect, sustainability pays. It's not about doing business as usual, but rather looking at what's needed to build a bigger, stronger, and steady customer base, a bigger and more diverse and talented workforce, and a broader tax base. And all of that requires that people of all abilities are considered during the planning and development stages of a project. As planners, environmental specialists, civil rights specialists, and others, we all have the responsibility to ensure that everyone has equivalent access to places of work, government buildings, places of entertainment, schools, hospitals, and all places made available for our needs and enjoyment.

A more holistic view of transportation planning considers broader social impact, such as access and affordability. Economic activities should reflect people's ability to access service and goods rather than simply vehicles' ability to move people and goods. When a community improves the sustainability of its transportation networks, the result is the creation of more livable communities. So the challenge to our audience today is we should be doing what's right, rather than merely meeting the minimum legal requirements, and realize that anybody at any time can have a temporary or permanent disability, and/or can be economically strapped. Conditions that can affect our ability to function in society. So again, thank you so much for attending this session, and I'll turn it back to Alex.

Questions and Answers

Alex Oster

Thanks so much, Candace. We will now take any questions that you have regarding the presentation. As a reminder, please type your questions into the chat pod, and we will answer them in the order that they were received. And while we're waiting on some questions to come in, for those folks that are participating, we have one final poll for you to fill out. So if you wouldn't mind answering a few more questions for us. Should be coming up on your screen now.

So we have our first questions from Davie Biagi. And he writes, “Interpretive overlooks, kite launches, ski resorts, and recreational bike trails are not essential services for minority and low income communities. How is the modal focus on transit to job centers, access to work, and access to groceries? How do these projects help people who have no way to get to work or buy food?” So any of our presenters can chime in.

Candace Groudine

I'd be happy to. This is Candace. One of the things that we—the area of focus for us is sustainability and its connection with accessibility is on what we're calling essential services. And I would agree that, let's say, recreational trails is not on that list. There is a list of essential services that Federal Highway has put together in connection with its connectivity initiative that supports the U.S. DOT initiative, the Ladders of Opportunity. And those essential services are the usual suspects. They're schools, hospitals, transit, government buildings, government services, and I don't believe we have recreational trails on there. Also food outlets. There are lots of neighborhoods, I think people know, that are isolated with respect to the availability of food. There's no access to a grocery or a supermarket. So with respect to, for example, ADA Compliance, our focus in the Public Rights of Way over which we have jurisdiction is with regard to those areas that affect the pedestrian access route and routes that lead to or are in the area where essential services require accessibility. So, for example, on an ADA Transition Plan, which is a listing of all the deficiencies identified in the Public Rights of Way, your prioritized schedule for correcting those deficiencies is going to have as priorities correcting those deficiencies in the areas that say, lead to school or pedestrian access routes to hospitals, as opposed to looking at those areas that lead to the area's fast food places, or recreational trails. Does that answer your question?

Alex Oster

Well, Davie is typing back. But in the meantime, we had another question come in from AMH. “Can the presenters elaborate on how the estimate, on how they estimate transportation costs, or is this done through taking the assumption that anything not car is cheaper? Any details on this is most welcome, thanks.” So any of our presenters can address the transportation cost question.

Karin Hilding

This is Karin Hilding. And I was just going to mention that one thing with the cost, whenever we do now a highway project in Whitefish, since it comes through our town, but it also exits out to the west, and then it comes in from the south. So we're working with MDT to get a bike/pedestrian path all along that. So it's most of that cost is just being included with the cost of our State Department of Transportation, rebuilding those highways, so they are including the bike path. Now once they've constructed the bike/ped path, then the City is required to do maintenance of that. So that becomes our responsibility, and there's other things we're responsible for maintenance, because we had them put in decorative lights, but then we become responsible for maintenance of those as well. But at least for us, the cost for some of those accessible things are not necessarily that high, but they just need to be incorporated when you're rebuilding your highway, rebuilding your street, as long as you incorporate it at the right time, they don't necessarily add a lot as far as cost.

And I was going to mention that with the last question that was asked, you know, at least in Whitefish, the accessibility question, it really does make it easier for low income when we are making our downtown easily accessible, well, and to elderly people. Because we are working on making, you know, the schools are easy to get to. The downtown City Hall is easy to get to. And then we're still working on our grocery store. But we do have our Farmer's Market right downtown, and we block off part of our streets for that. And then we do have one grocery store in the downtown area, a smaller convenience grocery store.

Matt Ouellette

This is Matt Ouellette from the Rhode Island DOT. In terms of cost for the bikeway, it's not so much cost, but there was a lot of community input in terms of applying for funds to construct a bikeway, you know, through the State. And then, you know, once that was in place, then in terms of alternative analysis costs com into play. But in terms of that's the main transportation cost is more depending on community input, and the want and need for a bikeway.

Alex Oster

Great. Thanks to you both. We have another question from Susan at Oregon DOT. And she was curious to know, “Are there any national policies being developed on equitable development?” So I imagine this question is for you, Candace?

Candace Groudine

I'm not aware of a national policy on equitable development at Federal Highway. And I can't speak—there may be—I think there's some activity at ETA, but again, I'm not sure about it. Of course, there are some private non-profit originations, some advocacy groups that have written in the area of equitable development and transportation. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which is based in DC, is one of the organizations, as well as Policy Link, also based in DC. Both organizations have a strong interest in transportation and in equitable transportation policy. So I think those would probably—and they're also national in scope.

Alex Oster

Great, thanks, Candace. So we'll take a few moments and see if any additional questions come in.

Connie Hill

Hi, Alex, this is Connie.

Connie Hill

Hi, Connie.

Connie Hill

Just wanted to share one thing since the subject of cost came up and we're talking about sustainable practices and Rhode Island I have a great example of using INVEST to evaluate some project later things. Federal Highway just wanted to inform everyone that the FHWA has started to actually look at the cost associated with using sustainable transportation practices like the ones that are in the INVEST tool. And we are likely going to be doing more of that, because there are some thoughts that prevail, incorrectly or not, that apply in sustainable practices or doing things more sustainable might cost more money, or that automatically adds to project cost. And in some cases, they may in the short term, but they may have some longer-term benefits down the line that make it worthwhile or that may even make the whole project cheaper. But we're really trying to look at which of those sustainable practices are likely to provide some level of cost savings to State DOTs and in particular. So I just wanted people to be aware of that. And we have a report that will be made available, even with some of the few projects—I'm sorry—criteria on the INVEST tool that some analysis will be linked to. So people can kind of just look for that. So just wanted to mention that real quickly. Thanks.

Alex Oster

Excellent. Thanks, Connie. And it looks like we don't have any more questions. So we would like to once again thank our speakers for their great presentations, and for taking the time to share their experiences working on access and affordability issue. We would also like to thank all the attendees for participating. Please do check out our future webinars, including the next webinar in the series on Linking Asset Management and Planning, which will be on June 25th from 2:00 to 3:00 P.M. Eastern time. That concludes the webinar for today! Thank you, and have a great afternoon.

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