Reports lists states best, worst at fighting sprawl
October 4, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While some states have curbed suburban sprawl, most continue to spend an overwhelming amount of money on new roads, according to a study by the Sierra Club.
A report released Monday by the environmental group found that 21 states spent over half of their federal transportation dollars on new roads in 1996 and 1997, rather than using the money to repair and maintain existing roads.
Twelve states spent less than $5 per urban resident on new mass transit construction, the Sierra Club report said.
Only 11 states have passed growth management laws, the group said.
Open space protection
According to the group, states spent over $7 billion in 1998 to preserve open spaces. Maryland leads the nation in that effort, budgeting $140 million over the next five years to protect existing public land and purchase development rights to create additional public property.
Other top states in the category of open space protection are New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Colorado.
The five worst-ranked states in the same category are West Virginia, Alaska, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas, according to the Sierra Club.
"West Virginia, unfortunately, hasn't realized the value of their great, green spaces," said Kathryn Hohmann, who heads the Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Program.
"They aren't putting enough of their lands into public protection. Frankly, they don't have the funding that they need to control the growth in those spaces," she told CNN.
The report also measured state efforts to improve transportation, restrict development, and revitalize existing communities.
The top-ranked states for good transportation planning are Rhode Island, New Jersey, Hawaii, Washington and California.
Rhode Island has the most effective plan for using money that might build new highways for other transit choices, the Sierra Club said, such as allocating millions of dollars to build 50 miles of new bike paths.
At the bottom of the list for transportation planning are Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama and Tennessee.
States that ranked low "were putting too much money into new highways," said Hohmann, who called that the wrong approach for "putting the brakes on urban sprawl. "
"Unfortunately ... that's a lot like trying to buy new pants to deal with your weight problem," she said. "It's a short-term strategy but, really, it's not a long-term solution."
In other categories, the Sierra Club cited these states:
Oregon has the best plan to limit development, and has slashed its annual yearly loss of agricultural land from 30,000 acres to 2,000 acres.
Vermont leads the nation in reforming communities, successfully battling large commercial developments in small-town settings.
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