They've been consistently named some of America's best cities, so it makes sense that the cities along the Interstate 25 corridor between Colorado's Colorado Springs and Denver-including the cities of Centennial (www.centennialcolorado.com/DocumentView.asp) and Golden-should be the models of smart growth. But the lessons learned from their successes should accompany the lessons learned from some of the challenges they have faced along the way.
Everyone seems to be in favor of smart growth, but when it comes down to it, smart growth means different things to developers, neighborhood groups, environmentalists, and downtown interest groups, says David Zelenok, director of public works/engineering for the city of Centennial and former director of transportation and public works for Colorado Springs.
Last night the Centennial city council was set to hear the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would increase the cost of street cuts. The proposal is designed to encourage more prudent applications of infrastructure and better timing of those applications, "so the streets aren't always being torn up," he says.
In Centennial, Zelenok has introduced a host of traffic-calming measures-lanes that narrow, forced-turn channelization (no left turns), and roundabouts.
But smart growth goes beyond streets. The implications are massive for public works departments nationwide as city councils approve both shortsighted smart growth developments (such as those in Colorado Springs that feature narrow streets but allow parking on both sides) and true smart growth developments that adhere to its principles of encouraging mixed-use development and walkable neighborhoods (such as the Lowell neighborhood in Colorado Springs).
One important consideration is that as the nation ages, public works departments need to plan their easier access throughout neighborhoods (such as requiring developers to ensure wheelchair-accessible developments).
"My advice is to achieve smarter growth and to be careful about overselling it as one of those projects where everybody will be all well," he says, advising public works directors to understand what smart growth is really about. "Policies to advocate smart growth must be crafted at the local level."
- Michael Fielding
Session: Creating Livable Communities and a New Urban Fabric
David Zeleno, PE
Director of Public Works/Engineering
city of Centennial, Colo.Mon.
Aug. 18, 2008