Our region certainly isn't the only one struggling to get a cohesive act together. Recognizing that regional planning needs help nationwide, the U.S. Congress has provided $150 million to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Sustainable Communities Initiative that integrates housing and transportation and environmental planning – funding land-use plans and zoning that "incorporate livability, sustainability, and social equity principles." In addition, Congress is currently debating the Livable Communities Act, which would provide more than $4 billion for local governments to shape development with planning that co-locates transportation, homes, and businesses. The joint Housing and Urban Development/Department of Transportation/Environmental Protection Agency livability initiative is similarly focused on getting more bang for the federal buck by funding cross-sector projects that advance multiple objectives. Additionally, the federal TIGER II grant program offers funds for regional transportation plans.
Central Texas wants to win its fair share of that highly sought-after money. To win a grant of up to $5 million, a working group convened by Envision Central Texas is meeting regularly now on a joint grant application (due Aug. 23) to fund a regional plan for sustainable development. If our region can win one of the highly competitive national grants, the funded project (related to implementing the CAMPO 2035 plan) should help to coalesce both planning and action. The city of Austin's transportation department is also planning a collaborative approach to a TIGER II grant application.