The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials released a new report analyzing how a full range of transportation options, including improvements to roadways, transit, walking and biking, can improve livability.

The report, "The Road to Livability: How State Departments of Transportation are Using Road investments to improve Community Livability," was spurred by the U.S. Department of Transportation's goal of including livability in the next multiyear transportation authorization legislation.

"Even before livability became a buzzword, many of us in the transportation field were working hard at improving the quality of life through smart transportation choices and investments," said John Horsley, executive director of AASHTO. "The next authorization bill must take into account the important role played by road-related investments in enhancing communities and improving the convenience of travel and access to services for all citizens."

The report looks at what state DOTs are doing to tailor transportation projects to their communities. While it does not specifically deal with the issue of freight transportation, it does in a number of cases point out how highway projects can be designed both to reduce congestion -- a key issue among truckers -- while at the same time working toward those "livable community" goals.

In the report, AASHTO says, it supports "the objective of providing more transportation choices for families to include travel by walking, biking and transit," and the report highlights a number of projects designed to improve walking and biking opportunities. "Enhancing community livability, however, cannot be restricted to this alone. For most Americans, driving is also a legitimate transportation choice, especially if it provides a more convenient way to get to a destination or is the only viable way to get there."

One of the areas highlights in the report is transportation projects that are planned, designed, and implemented in a way that is responsive to community concerns and to the environment. For instance, it said, Washington State's Department of Transportation put this approach to work on its Interstate 405 Corridor Program, a partnership among communities, elected officials, agencies, and advocacy groups to define a 20-year transportation vision for the 30-mile corridor in east suburban Seattle. The Washington State Department of Transportation has called Interstate 405 the most congested freeway in the state. Led by the Washington State DOT, the program undertook a streamlined environmental impact statement process. It sought-and won-consensus on a $7 billion transportation package to address mobility and access needs that includes both highway and transit projects and land use strategies.

The report also offers up several ideas for how states can improve the livability of their communities. These include:

* Creating good-paying jobs
* Stimulating the broader economy
* Investing in green projects
* Revitalizing a small town's Main Street
* Transforming urban streets into neighborhood centers
* Preserving scenic country roads
* Creating smart transportation solutions for tight times
* Enhancing neighborhoods through the enhancement program
* Making design responsive to community needs
* Integrating transportation and land use
* Using scenic byways to attract tourists and support local economies
* Promoting walking and biking
* Supporting travel and tourism

"Transportation is a critical link in creating more livable communities, playing an important role in connecting affordable housing, good jobs, a safe and healthy environment, and strong schools," said Horsley. "We appreciate that the U.S. DOT has broadened the scope of its 'livable communities' proposal to include highways as well as transit, and to serve both urban and rural areas. But what's been missing from the national dialogue on livability is what can be accomplished through road-related improvements."