Small Towns Provide Fertile Ground for Smart Urbanism

One Virginia town's complete streets transformation shows promise for active transportation interventions in small communities.

January 10, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Big H. Gateway to the City of Hopewell road art.

Floyd.lark / Hopewell, Virginia 'H'

The term "urbanism" brings to mind big cities and major infrastructure projects, but across the United States, small towns are quietly implementing complete streets projects that improve livability, mobility, and safety for their residents. In Hopewell, Virginia, the success of the city's recent push to improve outdoor recreation shows that small towns can practice urbanism too—sometimes more effectively than larger cities where projects get bogged down in bureaucracy and held back by competing interests.

Taking cues from the National Complete Streets Coalition, Wyatt Gordon writes that Hopewell's leaders are developing a complete streets plan for their city that aims to connect residential and commercial districts, increase available pedestrian infrastructure, and foster more active lifestyles. The initiative, stemming from the city council's 2015 passage of the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) resolution, has dual goals to facilitate healthier lifestyles for Hopewell residents and to stimulate economic development. City Councilmember Johnny Partin sees benefits in putting health and safety at the core of city projects, saying that investment in pedestrian and bike infrastructure is "essential to making sure everyone can enjoy our streets in safety."

With funding on the way from the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program, Hopewell will be able to complete several other projects, including bikeways that will form part of the Appomattox River Trail and a multimodal path that will "reunite Hopewell's downtown core."

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