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Sierra Club identifies BeltLine as one of country's best transportation projects

In recognizing the BeltLine as one of the best transportation projects in the U.S., the Sierra Club writes, "While progress has been made in terms of improvements to parks and some affordable housing developments, the transit line has a long w

This month, the Sierra Club recognized the Atlanta BeltLine as one of the country’s best transportation projects. 

When complete in 10 years or more, the BeltLine will provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails, transit, public art and affordable housing along the 22-mile railroad corridor.

The BeltLine was included in the Sierra Club’s list of best and worst transportation projects around the nation in a new report: Smart Choices, Less Traffic: 50 Best and Worst Transportation Projects in the United States. The report identifies specific projects, either planned or under construction, that it supports or opposes based on cost and whether the investment will contribute or set back efforts to expand transportation choices and reduce American oil use.

“Transportation infrastructure we build today will be with us for decades,” Michael Marx, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign, said in a news release. “Every investment we make should be part of a 21st century transportation system that serves all Americans, creates jobs, and helps transition our nation away from oil.”

The report said about the Atlanta BeltLine:

This project provides a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit by repurposing 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown Atlanta and remediating over 1,000 acres of brownfield. The beltline will reduce air pollution and improve public health through the use of efficient electric transit and attractive pedestrian and bicycle trails. The project has already resulted in new, denser living and retail development and further economic development is anticipated. Three trail segments connect four newly renovated parks. Additionally, affordable housing has opened along the corridor. However, much work remains and this comprehensive urban redevelopment effort will take another 20 years to complete. While progress has been made in terms of improvements to parks and some affordable housing developments, the transit line has a long way to go.

The report takes a deep look at the consequences of an oil-dependent and highway-focused transportation system, and the affects this would have on public health, clean air, water, and the climate. In 2002 Sierra Club released its first edition of Smart Choices, Less Traffic report, which looked at the consequences of our oil based transportation system from the perspective of air quality and the lack of transportation choices.  The report noted that demand for transit was rising.

Key findings of the Smart Choices: Less Traffic 2012 report.

Each year, America invests more than $200 billion in federal, state, and local tax dollars on transportation infrastructure—bridges and highways, aviation and waterways, public transit and sidewalks. 

  • Americans can and should expect the dollars we spend on transportation to contribute to solving environmental and economic problems. 
  • American should expect transportation investments to benefit everyone, including the one third of Americans who don’t drive at all. Lack of public transportation leaves too many
  • Americans without a way to connect with a paycheck, and leaves too many employers without a way to attract non-driving employees. In both cases, the biggest losers are jobs and economic growth. 
  • Americans are demanding transportation choices:
    • Eighty-two percent of Americans—both urban and rural—feel that “the United States would benefit from an expanded and improved transportation system, such as rail and buses.”
    • More than 80 percent of Americans support maintaining or increasing federal funding for biking and walking.
    • Increasingly, people are choosing to live in walkable, mixed-use communities with transportation choices and recreational opportunities. The Baby Boomer generation is increasingly demanding opportunities for continued independence, which means accessible transportation options.  
    • In 2004, vehicle miles traveled peaked. Since then, for the first time since World War II, Americans began driving less.
  • The transportation law Congress passed at the end of June 2012, called MAP-21, authorizes $105 billion in federal spending for transportation over two years, it spends four times as much on highways as on other modes of transportation.

In many places, local communities are doing what they can to create the non-oil dependent transportation that Americans are demanding in the 21st Century. Examples of these projects are highlighted in the report, which also highlights the many transportation projects, straight out of the 1940s, that perpetuate our reliance on oil.

Read the full report here.

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