Federal Government May Be a Culprit in Urban Sprawl Crisis

The General Accounting Office recently issued an assessment of the impact federal regulations may have on America's sprawling urban and suburban development. Specifically, GAO was looking to quantify the effect taxation, environmental regulation, federal highway expansion funding and other programs have on "urban sprawl."

Getting to hard figures is tough, GAO concluded. "The shortage of quantitative evidence does not mean that federal programs and policies do not have an impact on urban sprawl; it simply means that the level of the federal influence is difficult to determine," said the report, which can be downloaded at www.gao.gov/new.items/rc99087.pdf.

GAO cites several technology-based initiatives aimed at better-coordinating government efforts to curb sprawl. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has put in place the Smart Growth Network (www.smartgrowth.org) for swapping information between federal, state and local governments. Also, the President's Council on Sustainable Development, a federal advisory committee, soon will issue policy recommendations for preserving urban green spaces and containing congestion.

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