Working CRCOG’s Strategic Playbook

As I write this, NFL coaches Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers) and Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) are finalizing their preparations for Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. Both coaches will scrutinize their playbooks carefully to find an advantage over their opponents.

CRCOG has developed a strategic playbook during the past year, using an interactive process with our board and staff team. Our playbook outlines strategic goals and priorities for the next three to five years to help us meet the region's big challenges and pursue key opportunities. It is designed to be a dynamic and flexible plan that we can adapt to changing conditions.

We're busy working our playbook and making good headway on several strategic priorities. I am looking forward to continued progress over 2024 and beyond. Here's a snapshot of where we stand in some key areas:

  • Leveraging federal grant funding: We have added staff and consultants to assist our member towns with preparing competitive applications for grant programs funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and other federal funding opportunities. We now publish a monthly grants newsletter and offer a grant screening service for our members. These moves are starting to pay off. Based on current data, the federal government has awarded 29 discretionary grants totaling over $108 million to municipal and other applicants within our region. While CRCOG cannot take credit for supporting these applications, we have helped our municipal members access over $44 million for local government projects in areas like transportation safety and urban forestry.
  • Advancing safety for all road users: Traffic-related deaths and serious injuries, including those involving pedestrians and cyclists, remain high in the CRCOG region and elsewhere around the state. CRCOG has been awarded a Safe Streets for All (SS4A) grant under the BIL, which we will use to update our Regional Transportation Safety Plan comprehensively. The Safety Plan is important to identify needed safety improvements. It will be used to seek funding for infrastructure projects such as roundabouts, improved traffic signals, and separated pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure. To lead the update of the RTSP, we are establishing a "Vision Zero" (traffic safety) Task Force comprised of law enforcement, traffic engineers, program administrators, and other professionals. The Task Force will meet for the first time in early March. Also, we're preparing an application to the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program to develop an actionable plan to make comprehensive safety and transit improvements to the 11-mile length of the Berlin Turnpike. This is a collaborative project with the CTDOT and the towns of Berlin, Newington, and Wethersfield; we're excited about the potential to address one of the most problematic roadways in our region.
  • Building our regional trail network: In 2022, we were awarded a $16.4 million RAISE grant to close the remaining gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Plainville and to build a connection to the CTfastrak station in New Britain. The East Coast Greenway runs 3,000 miles from Florida to Maine, with 200 miles in Connecticut. We're making good progress in planning the route to complete the 12-mile gap in the off-road section in our region, bringing the trail over from Simsbury, through Bloomfield and north Hartford, and then over the river to the connection in East Hartford. Our team will soon begin to scope our Regional Bicycle/Pedestrian Priority Network Plan to identify a prioritized regional bicycle and pedestrian network to connect local bike/ped infrastructure in our communities.
  • Promoting economic vitality and initiating a regional housing strategy: We will soon be recruiting dedicated staff to support our Economic Development District (EDD) with implementing the key recommendations in our Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), including strategies to promote workforce development, enhance CRCOG's Brownfields program, and assisting the Metro Harford Alliance, AdvanceCT, and our local economic development professionals with business recruitment and retention. Housing is a key component of economic vitality, and we will soon begin our work to develop a comprehensive housing strategy for our region, focusing on mixed-income, middle-housing, and transit-oriented development. We have also started to implement the HUD-funded grant program to assist Low to Moderate Income (LMI) homeowners with remediating crumbling foundations, processing close to 40 claims in the program's first few months.
  • Addressing key environmental issues: Over the past year, CRCOG staff have helped to re-establish the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority (CCSWA). CCSWA has 14 members, 13 of whom are within CRCOG, and we will soon be able to recruit additional communities. CRCOG staff are also drafting a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit proposals to enable CCSWA towns to divert organic material from the residential and commercial waste stream. Our long-term objective is to use these projects to develop a more sustainable and cost-effective waste management strategy for our region.

These are some of the many projects and initiatives we are working on to benefit our towns and the region. Thus far, the time and effort we put into developing our strategic playbook are proving a worthwhile investment. We'll continue to work on the plan to benefit our municipal members and other partners. I look forward to keeping the community informed of our progress.

Hope you all enjoyed Superbowl LVIII!

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