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Smart Growth for Highway 29

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The future of the Highway 29 corridor prompted the City of Greer to apply in October for a technical assistance grant from Smart Growth America.  The city’s compelling application paid off, as it is one of just 15 communities awarded a grant made possible by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

The grant, which does not require matching funds, provides recipients with a one-day or two-day training session with a smart growth expert on the issue of their choice. For the City of Greer, that issue is transit oriented development.

“Greer is extremely interested in smart growth solutions, as our fiscal and environmental well-being depends on having a thoughtful and reasonable pattern of growth across our region.  In fact, we see smart growth solutions as the only responsible way to address our transportation needs,” Mayor Rick Danner said.  “Our community faces a choice between an expensive expansion of the I-85 corridor or an enhanced transportation corridor along Highway 29.”

Because local drivers comprise a high percentage of traffic along the I-85 corridor and the high price tag of interstate expansion would not offer options for transit or improving air quality, Danner said smart growth solutions along the Highway 29 corridor “would be good for Greer, good for the region, and good for future generations.”

The grant is the result of the city’s collaboration with Ten at the Top and Upstate Forever, agencies that foster cooperation and collaboration among community leaders for business and enterprise growth in concert with environmental goals.  Moving toward the goal of regional transportation collaboration, the City of Greer has adopted a memorandum of understanding with the Greenville Pickens Area Transportation Study, the Spartanburg Area Transportation Study, and the Appalachian Council of Governments that includes Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties.

“This (memorandum of understanding) is a very important step forward. These are three agencies doing the planning for all types of projects,” Danner said. “This is a big one for us.”

The Smart Growth America grant will make possible a transit oriented development 101 workshop to display both the short and long-term benefits to transportation and planning staff members from across the region, as well as business and community leaders.

“If we are successful in implementing a TOD vision for the Highway 29 corridor, we will link three major municipalities and a regional airport with enhanced transit service and foster economic development along the route.  The creation of a regional transportation connection will increase employment opportunities for those without access to cars,” Danner said.  “Where now these individuals are only able to access employment in their individual counties, with the creation of the Highway 29 transit service between Spartanburg and Greenville and the accompanying TOD growth, a wide range of employment will be opened to these individuals.”

Nearly 90 applications from 34 states and the District of Columbia applied for the Smart Growth America technical assistance grant.  Roger Millar, director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, said the 15 communities selected to receive technical assistance exhibited the strongest interest in and need for smart growth tools and demonstrated a commitment from local business, community and political leaders to implement local smart growth solutions.

“We are excited about working with each of these communities to develop local solutions that support thriving places now and for generations to come,” Millar said.