One of the key issues facing the highway construction industry as we prepare for the next millennium is how do we effectively address smart growth, livability and urban sprawl, which anti-highway groups are using in a high profile way to argue against increased road capacity. In order to determine what the public truly thinks about these terms and how we should respond, TRIP, on behalf of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), joined resources with the American Highway Users Alliance to sponsor a series of focus groups throughout the country to receive feedback from the very people who are living in these areas.
The feedback we have received is providing us with very useful and instructive information. What we are hearing tells us that we should no longer use the term “sprawl.” Sprawl is a pejorative term that connotes a negative image. Moreover, it is a term that is being used by anti-highway groups against the highway industry because it conveys the association that building more roads will cause more sprawl, thus putting our industry in a defensive position.
The strongest feedback we have received is the majority of people do not want to live in high density areas, which is part of what the environmental community is advocating as part of its smart growth approach.
Taking a balanced approach
In simple terms, it should not be one mode versus the other, rather the message should be that our overall transportation system needs to be improved.
The focus groups responded particularly well to TRIP’s plan of calling for a balanced approach to solving traffic congestion. That balanced approach includes making road improvements, better signalization and signage, more efficient mass transit and better long-term transportation planning at the local and regional levels.
This balanced, comprehensive approach also will be applied to the smart growth issue. In addition to our plan to provide traffic congestion relief, we will emphasize the fact that people should have the freedom to live and drive where they want. We also will emphasize that the public wants decisions involving land issues to be made at the local level, and that people are opposed to high-density living.
TRIP is working with the TCC to develop a mobility tool kit which will provide members of our industry with talking points, fact sheets and media guides in dealing with these issues.