The weather is getting warmer, Memorial day is getting closer, and graduation season has arrived once again.
On Saturday the class of 2012 threw their hats in the air at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, just as they did two years ago when I delivered the commencement address at Loras. But there is something special about the class of 2012; they are the first class to graduate into a more livable, sustainable Dubuque.
Just a few months after this year's graduating class entered college, the City Council of Dubuque adopted the Historic Millwork District Master Plan. This innovative proposal laid out a plan to convert factories and mills that had lain vacant for decades into mixed income housing, workplaces, and entertainment centers. It brought together partners who set aside their differences and focused on their common interest, a revitalized Dubuque.
The Millwork District plan relied on a complete streets approach to transportation: making the district's streets accessible for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders. The plan also created hundreds of jobs and attracted thousands more as businesses--like IBM--relocated to the redesigned district.
Just like those freshmen at Loras, Dubuque was full of ambition and ready to get to work. And just as those freshmen grew into cap and gown clad graduating seniors, the city I saw last Friday was quite different from the city I saw in 2009 when I first toured the Millwork District.
The project in Dubuque received $5.6 million from our first round of TIGER grants to create its complete streets. Those federal dollars helped the city leverage millions more in additional investment to advance this important project.
And what I saw last Friday at the ribbon cutting of the Dubuque Historic Millwork District complete streets program lived up to its promise. The new streets are an invitation to drivers, public transit passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, people without access to automobiles, children, and people with disabilities.
Dubuque's complete streets are proof positive that if you build it, they will come. Three years ago, we stood on a road in disrepair, surrounded by empty warehouses and idle mills. But on Friday, those warehouses had become popular shops, employment centers, and homes.
A plan, a grant, and hard work were all it took for this city to realize its potential. And now the young graduates of Loras can go out and realize their own potential in a more livable, sustainable community.