Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Comment on Draft Salem-Keizer Metro Area Transportation Funding List

On Wednesday there will be an open house to learn about regional transportation funding and projects.
An Open House is scheduled for 4:00-7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, in the MWVCOG conference room at 109 High St. SE, Salem, OR. The public is invited to attend the Open House to ask questions and provide comments to SKATS staff.

Now what does this acronymic pile-up mean, you ask!

What is a TIP?

The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) designated by the Governor to develop and implement a coordinated, comprehensive, and continuing planning process that addresses issues related to the transportation systems of regional significance in the urban area...

The SKATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) identifies the transportation projects within the SKATS MPO area expected to utilize federal and state funds during the six-year period (FY 10 through FY 15).
So the TIP is the regional list of projects to get funded with state and federal dollars.

STP-U funds are the federal dollars over which MPOs have full discretion to allocate as they please. Other funding streams have one or more strings attached and cannot be allocated freely.

(The regulations, funding streams, and governmental layers are not always easy to understand. This represents my best attempt. If you find errors, please drop a comment, and I'll correct it promptly. If you disagree with an interpretation, please also comment; lively debate would be great!)

Some Context: Salem-area Decisions Compared to Eugene's

Let's take a moment to look at how our neighbors to the south, the Lane COG, allocate these same dollars. An analysis of their STP-U allocations for 2004-2009 indicates that about 18% of the amount for capital projects (12% of the total) went directly to bike/ped infrastructure. This does not include transit, planning, transportation options, or other things that also benefit bicycling. This is direct investment in things like bicycle paths. (This excludes sidewalks and bike lanes built incidentally as parts of "urban upgrades" to collector and arterial roads.)

By comparison, in the draft 2010-15 TIP, less than 1% of the total STP-U funds will go to direct bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

At the MPO level, the Eugene area spends over 10 times as much on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. It would seem they find bicycle and pedestrian facilities important and effective. It is also why Eugene is a gold-rated bicycle friendly community.

(The "Keep Salem Moving" road bond is consistent, designating only 2% to direct bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Again this excludes bike lanes and sidewalks as part of "urban upgrades.")

The Draft TIP Deserves Comment in at least Three Ways

Here are some projects that we think deserve public comment. As it stands, the TIP represents a huge and unhealthy commitment to cars and drive-alone trips. Essentially, the document funds and ratifies the assumption that expanding road capacity is the only serious solution to congestion.

First, we'd like to see SKATS give greater attention to reducing drive-alone trips (single occupant vehicle or SOV trips).

Though the selection criteria include provisions to ask about drive-alone trips, we think SKATS could do more in the way of actually showing that one approach or another is certain to be "ineffective."

One way that SKATS indirectly hampers other approaches is through the paltry funding for Cherriots Rideshare. Rideshare is budgeted to receive $131,000 in 2010 moving to $168,000 in 2015. Relative to the millions of dollars each road project receives, that Rideshare gets less than 10% of a single project's funding is risible and signficantly reduces its effectiveness.

Two of the projects really need to be considered together. They form a pair that gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

As hopefully nearly everyone now knows, the Union Street Railroad Bridge opened again this last month. This bicycle and pedestrian bridge makes crossing the Willamette River much easier and more pleasant. As part of completing the connections near the bridgeheads, SKATS is helping to fund a paved path on the west side of the bridge to Glen Creek Road.

Glen Creek Road is obviously an important way to reach the bridge from surrounding neighborhoods. Crossing Wallace Road and Glen Creek, however, is extraordinarily difficult. In the TIP are plans to widen the intersection, add dual-turn lanes, and lengthen the crossing for both bicycles and pedestrians. We believe this will complicate the crossing and make it even less likely bicyclists and pedestrians will want to hazard the crossing and use the Union Street Railroad Bridge.

Some Next Steps or What You Can Do

(Here is the pdf of the full draft TIP. It is 58pp and 17MB. Here is a shorter brochure on it.)

In addition to the open house there will be a public hearing later this month:
A Public Hearing is scheduled at noon June 22, 2010, in the Senator Hearing Room in Courthouse Square at 555 Court St. NE, Salem, OR. The SKATS Policy Committee will accept public testimony and comments during the Public Hearing.

We ask SKATS to:
1) Give more attention to showing that approaches other than road widening are sure to be ineffective before committing to road widening.
2) Give a larger share of money to Cherriots Rideshare to support its ongoing effort to reduce drive-alone trips.
3) Better coordinate work at the Union St RR Bridge and Glen Creek Road to ensure that bicyclists and pedestrians can easily cross Wallace Road.

Comments can be emailed to:
Mike Jaffe (and copy Lori Moore and Councilor & Chair Dan Clem)
or faxed to:
503-588-6094 (attention Mike Jaffe)


Jeff McNamee said...

I can't make the open house but I'll be sure to email my comments to the contacts you list Eric. I am saddened and disappointed that Salem will forever be a drive through/by city. Thanks Eric.

MWVBTA said...

Mike Jaffe sends in this dissent.

Thank you for informing your readers about the open house and public hearing and to send comments to SKATS. I do however disagree with your conclusion that less than 1% of the STP-U funds go to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The urban upgrades you didn't include are projects that add sidewalks and bike lanes but don't add vehicle capacity. For example, the Chemawa Road urban upgrade (which was awarded Transportation Enhancement Funds as well) is a project to add bikelanes and sidewalks to Chemawa Road from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park; the road will continue to have one lane in each direction for vehicles. Here is the description:

Construction of full improvements on both sides along Chemawa Rd. N from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park, including curbs, separated sidewalks where possible, bicycle lanes, innovative stormwater management rain gardens, and signalized intersection improvements at the McNary High School entrance.

Ward Drive and Delaney Road (Turner) are two other projects in the 10-15 TIP where sidewalks and bikelanes are being added but the road will continue to be one lane in each director (the Ward project will also add a right-turn bay at the Ward @ Lancaster intersection's eastbound approach).

The attachment summarizes the $22 million in STP-U funds programmed in the draft 10-15 TIP (see Table 7, p. 38) into categories. For project types I've used the primary function/need for the improvement: for this exercise, I'm not taking into account that some project solve more than one need, such as the roundabout improving traffic flow as well as safety (see http://www.iihs.org/video.aspx/info/roundabout ).

The table in the attachment shows that over $3.7 million (which is 17% of the STP-U total) is for bike and pedestrian projects. $1.857 million (about 8%) is for bus replacement purchases, plus new and upgraded bus-stop shelters. The Rideshare and Travel Demand Management programs will receive $999,000 in STP-U (note: additional STP funds are contributed by ODOT). Capacity increasing projects get $6.443 million (or 29%) of STP-U funds: this includes the roundabout, which as I mentioned is also a safety project. In summary, I would maintain that the TIP has a good balance of projects for all modes of travel.

Of course there is more to do for bicyclists and pedestrian, and I'm looking forward to the ideas and priorities that will emerge when Salem updates the bicycle chapter of their TSP.

MWVBTA said...

Thanks for the comments, Mike!

1) You are right to comment on the Chemewa Road project that will connect Keizer Rapids Park. In a note on the STIP, we mentioned that it looked like a fine project. It would have been good to repeat that here. Thanks for pointing it out.

2) Nevertheless, the important point was the proportion of STP-U funds allocated to non urban-upgrade bicycle projects. Even if you add in "bike beneficial" urban upgrades on both the Salem-Keizer and the Eugene-Springfield ledgers, SK comes up short by a similar margin - if a<b then (a+c)<(b+c)!

The Eugene spending from 2004-2009 also includes spending on transit and other modes.

No matter how you slice it, the Eugene-Springfield MPO allocates a lot more on other modes than SKATS does.

Your claim about balance also doesn't include the way road capacity expansion degrades existing facilities. The path from the Union ST. Bridge to Glen Creek is compromised significantly if Wallace @ Glen Creek is widened and the crossing made more difficult. You could spend millions of dollars inside the park, but the connection to the outside street grid would still be difficult and intimidating and effectively non-functional. The dollars may look "balanced" but the consequences on the road are decidedly unbalanced.

We look forward, too, to the Bike update of the TSP! Municipalities feed projects to the MPO, I'd like to Salem feeding many more good projects to the MPO!

Thanks for stopping by and we look forward to more conversation and debate!

Jeff McNamee said...

I've got the solution at Wallace and Edgewater (if you wanted one?). Instead of the inadequate crosswalk that exists how about a ped/bike bridge that extends the N side of the Hwy 22 bridge. Cyclist/walkers could actually use the Edgewater Trail and feel confident crossing over Wallace. The approach and exit already exist. The bridge and support mechanisms already exist. This proposed project would assist the W Salem redevelopment initiative. If a ped/bike bridge existed a RTT project down the old RR bed would have some teeth. This project is an excellent nominee for an Urban Trail Fund Grant! Connectivity!!

MWVBTA said...

Thanks an interesting wrinkle! The Rivercrossing Alternate Modes Study (it's 91pp) discusses a bike/ped bridge over Wallace @ Edgewater, but not in the configuration you propose.

It would be interesting to see some conceptual sketches and more engineering opinion - if the approach, support, and exit structure essentially already exists, that might make such a thing a lot cheaper. That's a nice thing that makes you go "hmmm..."! Thanks!