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...So the TIP is the regional list of projects to get funded with state and federal dollars.
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).
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)