Obama: The Days of “Building Sprawl Forever” Are Over

obama_fl.jpgObama in Ft. Myers
This is encouraging. On the stump in Fort Myers, Florida to campaign for the stimulus bill, President Obama took a detour from his well-worn "roads and bridges" infrastructure spiel to deliver some brief remarks on transit and land use. Obama's answer came in response to a city council member who said she wanted funding for commuter rail in the recovery package. C-Span has the video (check the 55 minute mark) and Transportation for America has the transcript:

It's imagining new transportation systems. I'd like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to invest in mass transit because potentially that's energy efficient. And I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally…

The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody… recognizes that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.

That will make a big difference.

Before you get too carried away, though, head over to Salon for a recap of Obama's pitch yesterday in Elkhart, Indiana, which included this sop to highway enthusiasts:

He promised his plan would create or save 80,000 jobs in Indiana, and that infrastructure funding would improve "roads like US 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on ... and I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart."

The US 31 expansion is what you might call a sprawl project. Obama's transportation platform may still amount to a Rorschach blot, but his comments in Fort Myers can't be retracted. With the stimulus bill about to enter conference committee, having POTUS on the record opposing sprawl should bolster efforts to maximize transit funding and limit the use of highway funds to expand road capacity. Time to keep the pressure on.