Launch Slideshow

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Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up Call

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    Stephen Coyle

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    Consultant Peg Staeheli addresses low-impact development.

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    Lousiana State University Professor Craig Colten covers flood control policies.

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    Latham Stack worked with Keene, H.H., to analyze how climate change may affect stormwater drainage.

The U.S. DOT asserts that smart growth and energy conservation planning provide the foundation for climate-change planning. That planning process, according to the department's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Through State and Local Transportation Planning report, isn't independent of other public planning but rather overlaps related concerns from alternative energy to smart growth.

For example, Seattle's plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions is linked to its smart growth, energy conservation, and air quality initiatives.

Speakers Carl Sedoryk, general manager of Monterey-Salinas Transit in California, and Debra Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County in California, present strong evidence of the relationship between transportation and sustainability. It's hard to argue: The transportation system uses two-thirds of all the oil in the United States and emits between 60% and 90% of the nation's urban air pollution.

Sedoryk will discuss an innovative program to convert the transit agency's fleet to biodiesel using locally-grown crops that are produced in the off-season at a Monterey County vineyard—likely making it the first public transit agency in the country to sustainably produce biodiesel for fleet operations. He will also offer insight into obtaining federal tax credits and setting up contingency plans should crops fail.

Public transit is just one element of the concept of low-impact development, which can be applied to everything from transportation systems to drainage systems, and even general infrastructure. A variety of low-impact applications is available for general capital improvement, stormwater, roadway, park, private-sector, and right-of-way projects; and Peg Staeheli, president of SVR Design Company, will talk about them during a 10:30 a.m. Mon., Aug. 18, seminar titled “Low-Impact Development: Its Future and What It Means to Public Works.”

“There's no question that we have to manage our resources—everything from money to our natural resources and people,” she explains. “We've been sitting back a bit and letting government act for us, and this may give us that opportunity to reconnect with each other—with our neighbors, with our families, with our communities.”

One major challenge that public works managers face is the sudden redefining of the industry.

“Suddenly, ‘public works' is much broader than many jurisdictions have defined it. We have to look at integrating systems,” adds Staeheli, who admits that even in her hometown of Seattle, each department—neighborhoods, planning, transportation, utilities, city lights, parks, and schools—functions uniquely from the others. “We have to look for improvements that give us more than just a street or water line. We're going to look for public investments that give us multiple values.”

Those values must be tied into capital improvement programs, which she'll discuss during the session.

One issue that concerns Staeheli is suburban sprawl. “If we're going to get more dense, we're going to have to reexamine our suburbs,” she says. “If there's a question we leave with, this might be it: What's the future of the suburb? It all adds up to something, so how do we retrofit those suburbs?”

David Zelenok hopes to provide an answer. The director of public works and engineering for the city of Centennial, Colo., will present state-of-the-art traffic engineering techniques and smart-growth concepts designed to reduce traffic volumes and enhance neighborhood safety during another 10:30 a.m. session Mon., Aug. 18: “Creating Livable Communities and a New Urban Fabric.”