Three days of meetings in Washington D.C. recently capped the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s efforts to secure BUILD grant investments from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Greenway projects from Massachusetts to Florida. Eleven partnerships from seven states submitted BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant proposals this past July to plan, design, and/or build more than 200 miles of Greenway. Totalling more than $135 million in requests, the portfolio of proposals creates an unprecedented opportunity to develop the East Coast Greenway, especially in rural communities.
Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano and Deputy Director Niles Barnes traveled to the capital in late September to encourage elected officials to endorse the grant proposals submitted from their districts and to showcase the opportunity with federal leaders. The dozen meetings included sessions with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of the Interior as well as with Sen. Richard Burr (NC), Rep. Buddy Carter (GA), Rep. David Rouzer (NC), Rep. David Price (NC), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Sen. Thom Tillis (NC), Sen. Mark Warner (VA), and/or their staff.
“The Greenway is one of the unique projects in our nation today that brings people together, from rural and urban neighbors to their elected officials from both sides of the aisle,” says Markatos-Soriano. “Through this inspiring array of projects, federal leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to invest in safe walking and biking infrastructure poised to raise quality of life, especially in rural communities where the economic boost is needed most.”
A key topic of discussion was the role these BUILD projects can play as we rebuild areas hit hardest by Hurricane Florence’s flooding. Three of the BUILD projects have the potential to bring needed investment into the Cape Fear River and Waccamaw River regions of the Carolinas.
Barnes and Markatos-Soriano also met with key nonprofit allies including the League of American Bicyclists, Infrastructure Week, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for strategic talks about guiding the future of infrastructure investment and the reauthorization of federal surface transportation funding.
Last spring, the East Coast Greenway Alliance alerted partners that the BUILD program, formerly known as TIGER, had tripled to $1.5 billion for 2018. Alliance staff brainstormed a list of possible BUILD projects, met with allies at the state and local levels, and assisted a number of the grant proposals. The Alliance also created a web page of resources and hosted a webinar, attended by more than 100 stakeholders from around the country, to talk about the opportunity and offer advice from five consultants with experience writing successful DOT grant applications. Alliance members and partners — elected officials, agency leaders, and more — wrote hundreds of letters to US DOT urging the funding of Greenway BUILD projects.
“This was a phenomenal initiative, these grants are not easy to apply for,” says Andy Clarke of the 11 Greenway proposals submitted. Clarke, director of strategy at Toole Design Group and an East Coast Greenway trustee, was one of the five consultants contributing to the webinar. “Let's hope it pays off!”
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