Transportation Reform in the South

SELC's transportation reform work envisions more efficient, less polluting ways to move goods and people across the South.

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SELC sues Trump administration over illegal climate change rollback More »

SELC filed a lawsuit today in federal court to challenge the Trump Administration’s abrupt and illegal suspension of federal provisions designed to curb climate change pollution from cars and trucks. SELC is representing Clean Air Carolina in the suit, joining with the National Resources Defense Council who is representing itself and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG.

The transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) pollution in the United States. Combatting these emissions is a central focus of SELC’s Land and Community Program, and SELC applauded a regulation adopted by the Obama administration requiring states and cities to measure GHG emissions associated with National Highway System segments within their jurisdiction and to set pollution reduction targets. The guidelines set the U.S. on the trajectory toward a cleaner future.

“As the Southeast continues to grow, it is essential we have tools that will help to reduce harmful climate changing GHG emissions” said SELC attorney, Kym Hunter. “The time to act on this issue is now, and we cannot afford to sit by while the Trump administration suppresses collection of vital climate change data.”

“When the Trump administration abruptly jettisoned these common-sense provisions, running roughshod over proper procedures, SELC decided to challenge the action in court,” according to Trip Pollard, leader of SELC’s Land and Community Program. “This move is one of many recent examples of the White House and its agencies unlawfully ignoring procedures in the attempt to weaken or eliminate environmental protections.”

By filing this legal challenge, SELC aims to ensure that the GHG performance measure is reinstated and that the federal government cannot disregard climate change and block efforts to collect data and confront the climate impacts of transportation plans. SELC also intends to prevent the Trump administration from using illegal mechanisms to suspend regulations and instead compel it to follow proper, transparent procedures. Otherwise, such maneuvers are a threat SELC will likely confront in many more complex battles to come.

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The South's auto-centered transportation approach contributes to nearly every serious environmental problem we face today--from air and water pollution, to loss of rural lands and natural areas, to climate change. SELC is pursuing an alternative approach through a region-wide effort to promote cleaner transportation options and to advance policies to curb sprawl and protect the special places in the South that we cherish.

Halting the Most Destructive Highway Projects

State transportation departments in the South have too often built massive, destructive highways and bypasses that do little to improve our long-term mobility, safety, economy, or quality of life. Instead of reducing congestion, these costly new projects often subsidize development farther out into the countryside, causing "planned sprawl" and quickly filling up with traffic by essentially forcing people to drive everywhere for everything.  Sprawling development, coupled with a failure to invest in alternatives to auto and truck travel, has made the South's per capita driving distances and tailpipe pollution levels some of the worst in the nation.

SELC is challenging the most ill-conceived and expensive highway proposals in the South. These projects would increase air and water pollution, destroy valuable natural areas and farmland, worsen the region's carbon footprint, and pave the way for yet more far-flung development.  Instead, we are advocating for low impact, more effective solutions to transportation problems, such as targeted improvements to existing highways.

SELC's Vision for Transportation

In addition to advancing alternatives to damaging projects, SELC is promoting fundamental policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels, including

• More transportation choices: We are spurring investment in cleaner and more efficient alternatives to driving, such as transit, intercity passenger rail, and freight rail.
• Fix-it-first: We are urging our states and metro areas to repair thousands of roads and bridges and to improve the efficiency of existing roads, rather than to pour money into new highways and bypasses.
• Linking transportation and land use: We are promoting development patterns that curb sprawl, reduce the cost for public services, and promote public health by providing choices for getting to work, shopping centers, school and other destinations.

If we change our approach to transportation, as the South continues to grow we can foster vibrant economic growth and communities with a range of mobility and living options while protecting our health and our environment.