Smart growth project extended

EPA's Smart Growth Index

The Environmental Protection Agency, after a successful first phase, this

summer will extend a pilot program through which it is trying to expand

use of its geographic information systems-based Smart Growth Index (SGI)

software as an aid to communities' local planning process.

SGI can be used to model alternative land use and transportation scenarios

and to evaluate their outcomes using indicators that show what the environmental

impact of each scenario is likely to be.

It has proven to be a particularly useful tool in getting local support

for smart growth programs, said Eric Sprague, an environment protection

specialist with the EPA's Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation. It's

easy to install on computers and can be used at such events as public meetings

to quickly sketch development alternatives and stimulate discussion and

input.

The SGI program "provides a tool that most communities just wouldn't

have available to them without it," Sprague said.

Twenty communities in 17 states were chosen as pilot sites in the first

phase, which began in June 2000. The EPA provided the SGI software and initial

training.

The next phase is due to begin in the next few weeks, involving another

20 communities, which EPA will name early this month after an evaluation

of proposals.

The program — which EPA has moved beyond the pilot phase to a full-fledged

"partnership" status — has already proven such a success that it will almost

certainly be continued next year, Sprague said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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