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Jun 252010

From Green Right Now Reports

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan have announced new contracting efforts that they say will enhance livability and sustainability initiatives and improve competition for federal highway projects.

The new process removes conflicting HUD and Federal Highway Administration contracting requirements, giving state and local agencies more flexibility, officials said. In addition, it promotes livable and sustainable communities, places where transportation, housing and commercial development investments have been coordinated so that people have access to adequate, affordable and environmentally sustainable travel options near their homes, by delivering projects sooner and at reduced costs. But the new process will not allow transportation dollars to be used for housing related improvements.

“This is another example of the Obama Administration’s commitment to changing the way the federal government operates and making it work better for Americans by breaking down silos and making smarter investments,” Secretary Donovan said in a statement. “This will extend the impact of federal investment from buildings and roads directly to economic opportunities for low-income people and the companies who hire them.”

A notice published in the Federal Register will permit — on a case-by-case basis — the application of HUD local hiring requirements on projects funded by the Highway Administration.

Current HUD contracting rules require that low-income people living in a project area be hired as a condition of funding that project. That conflicts with Highway Administration rules that discourage hiring preferences. Consequently, states managing projects like street reconstructions near HUD-managed properties must award two contracts: one for Highway Administration-funded roadwork, and another for HUD-funded work, such as the relocation of underground sewers, utilities or water pipes serving the HUD property.

The federal government is now inviting states to submit proposals to the Highway Administration that improve contracting efficiencies while enhancing livability and sustainability in projects funded jointly with HUD. Officials said the proposals will be evaluated based on the extent to which HUD funding may be used for highway projects, the effects on competition whenever HUD’s local hiring preferences are applied on a joint Highway Administration/HUD project, and the extent to which the alignment both departments’ requirements improve livability and sustainability.

This initiative builds on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a new interagency collaboration, launched by President Obama in June 2009, between the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Guided by six Livability Principles, the Partnership is designed to remove the traditional federal government silos that exist between departments and strategically target the agencies’ transportation, land use, environmental, housing and community development resources to provide communities the resources they need to build more livable, sustainable communities.

“We are committed to innovation, removing barriers to employment, improving livability and improving government service to the American people,” Secretary LaHood said in a statement. “Bringing these two programs together gives Americans more for their tax dollar.”