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State Capitals Go Green

2014 January 9
Joel Beauvais

January 9, 2014
12:17 pm EDT

A Greening America’s Capitals design option for a market in Indianapolis


Our Greening America’s Capitals program is making a visible difference in communities—literally changing the landscape of our nation’s state capitals. Since 2010, EPA has helped 14 state capitals and the District of Columbia create community designs that help clean the air and water, stimulate economic development, and make existing neighborhoods more vibrant places. This week, we announced three more capital cities that will be receiving assistance: Lansing, Michigan; Olympia, Washington; and Madison, Wisconsin.

We do this work in partnership with local citizens and businesspeople, local governments, state governments, and other federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. By working together, we’re able to develop designs that can achieve multiple benefits at once. Our goal is a whole design that’s better than just the sum of its parts.

For example, in my home state of Connecticut, the city of Hartford asked us to help redesign Capitol Avenue. The proposed designs improve parks and state building grounds and focus on green street improvements that better manage stormwater, link cultural assets in the neighborhood, and encourage future redevelopment.

Street designs for Jackson, Mississippi; Des Moines, Iowa; and Helena, Montana offered options to make streets safer for pedestrians by separating them from traffic with rain gardens and trees that also work to improve water and air quality.

Des Moines, Iowa 6th Street before Greening America's Capitals grant

Des Moines, Iowa 6th Street before Greening America’s Capitals grant


A Greening America's Capitals design option for Des Moines, Iowa 6th Street

A Greening America’s Capitals design option for Des Moines, Iowa 6th Street


Designs like these can be an engine for change, leveraging far greater resources than EPA alone can invest. In Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, EPA’s assistance in cleaning up brownfields and helping the city plan for green infrastructure helped spur other public investments, such as a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts for a “creative arts corridor,” and almost $80 million in private investment in renovations to buildings along Main Street that stood vacant or underused for many years.

So, what are we going to be doing in Lansing, Olympia, and Madison? In the coming year, we will work with landscape architects and planners to provide design assistance to each of these three capitals:

  • Lansing has asked for assistance to transform a 14-acre parking lot sandwiched between the state capitol and Michigan’s Hall of Justice into a public park that showcases how green infrastructure can reduce combined sewer overflows and prevent flooding while beautifying an important civic space.
  • Olympia will receive assistance to redesign Capitol Way in downtown to improve access to businesses and the waterfront and reduce the city’s vulnerability to climate change by repairing aging stormwater infrastructure to better handle increased runoff.
  • In Madison, we’ll be working to make it easier for residents in a low-income community to access nearby transit, open spaces, and the Monona Bay. Green infrastructure designs will also offer ways to improve the city’s urban waters.

Greening America’s Capitals is a great example of how EPA is working in communities in partnership with other federal, state, and local governments to create better places for Americans to live, work, and play. You can learn more about our Greening America’s Capitals program at

Joel Beauvais is the Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy. Before this appointment, Joel served as Associate Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he oversaw a broad portfolio of domestic and international air quality and climate policy issues. He previously served as Special Counsel to the Office of the Administrator in EPA’s Office of General Counsel.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Anthony Brunello permalink
    January 16, 2014

    This is a wonderful program and a great beginning. It is essential that as a nation we move quickly to more sustainable cities. I would argue that as much as a focus on capitol cities can lead the way, we need nothing less than a form of domestic Marshall Plan to instigate significant changes toward the greening of our cities. I also believe in developing projects that pool national resources, but then distribute them in a decentralized manner to the neighborhoods, cities and counties–effecting a “bottom-up” approach with national and EPA guidelines, standards and goals.

    When I see a city like San Francisco on the verge of getting to a “zero” landfills dumping goal, I can believe that with some political will and resources, we can not only capture a greener future, but tremendous saving and economic benefits. Another benefit can be enhancing civic democracy and quality of life. This proves what government can do–and helps people do well–together.

  2. Bouchakour permalink
    January 16, 2014

    Hi everyone,
    Honestly, very proud of you.
    Throughout history and across every effort to safeguard the environment, we never saw so much presence on the ground, so amenagement and involvement in the lives of citizens.
    Such an initiative is not limited to making green environment but make the spirit of the American green.
    Best regards

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