Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Center St Bridge Seismic Study Looks to get Funding, other Notes: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our MPO meets today, and there's lots in the meeting packet and agenda. (They even warn "this meeting could last longer than usual"!) We'll go back-n-forth a little in time (off the meeting agenda even) in order to try to give the emphasis we want to things.

Center Street Bridge Seismic Study and other 2015-2018 Funding Adjustments

Center St Bridge Seismic Preapp Sheet
Some bonus money appeared from the new Federal Transportation bill, and SKATS has a plan for it:
During the project prioritization process by the TAC this August and September, four projects were identified by the TAC that would be ideal candidates to add to the current TIP. Three of the projects would add funds to an existing project in the FY 2015-2020 TIP. The fourth was a new project to study the cost and feasibility of a seismic retrofit for the Center Street Bridge and could start in early 2017. These projects were the top four in the initial ranking, would not require additional scoping by ODOT, and the requested funds would be programmed in FY 2017 or 2018.

None of the proposed construction projects would significantly affect roadway capacity, vehicle volumes, travel speeds, or would require a conformity determination. Planning studies are exempt from conformity determination requirements. Therefore, a 30-day public review would not be required in accordance with the TIP Management Process.

Therefore, based on their high ranking and need to complete critical projects, the TAC recommends modifying the FY 2015-2018 TIP for the following projects:
  • Delaney Road Project Supplemental Funding - $50,338 STBGP-U funds
  • Center Street Bridge Seismic Retrofit Study - $179,460 STBGP-U funds
  • 12th Street SE: Hoyt Street SE to Fairview Avenue SE - $623,000 STBGP-U funds
  • 45th Avenue: Silverton Road to Ward Drive East Side Urban Upgrade - Total request of $1,791,496 in a combination of TA-U and STBGP-U funds
So as I read it, that then leaves this list for the rest of the preliminary rankings generated by the TAC and which will continue to be evaluated and ranked for the 2018-2023 cycle, which will take a few more months yet:

  1. River Road N. Traffic Signal Interconnect – Keizer Keizer/Salem $1,060,000
  2. Union Street NE Family Friendly Bikeway Salem $ 3,500,000 $1,500,000 $ 2,000,000
  3. Silverton @ Hollywood Traffic Signal & Turn Lane Marion County $868,700
  4. Hilfiker Ln SE at Commercial St SE Intersection and Signal Upgrade Salem $1,805,000
  5. Fixed Route Transit Bus Replacements SAMTD $4,234,927
  6. Verda Lane Bike/Ped improvements Keizer $2,730,000
  7. Hollywood Dr: Silverton Rd to Salem CL Urban Upgrade Marion County $2,496,335
  8. Keizer Growth Transportation Impacts Study Keizer $185,000
  9. Kuebler/Cordon Corridor Study and Management Plan Marion County $200,000
  10. Oregon Household Travel and Activity Survey for the SKATS area SKATS $350,000
  11. Lancaster Dr: Auburn to Center Urban Reconstr. Marion County $2,318,400
  12. McGilchrist Street SE – Complete Streets Project Salem $3,500,000
  13. Transit ITS Replacement and Upgrade SAMTD $2,145,000
Using the "bonus" money for completion funding in the current 2015-2020 cycle, as well as the urgent seismic study, somewhat sidesteps the objection that other projects might actually be more important, and also ensures that the seismic study should be in the first tranche. The other projects will be able to compete on a level playing field for the 2018-2023 round.

So all in all that arrangement seems pretty defensible.

Off the current Agenda - Previously this Summer

From the July meeting minutes there are a couple of interesting bits.

On the SRC
Due to public and agency involvement requirements, a joint jurisdiction/agency/Interested Party public hearing will likely be scheduled in mid-October. The purpose of involving multiple participants is to ensure that all parties receive the same information along with everyone hearing public testimony at the same time. Confusion is likely to be less if all parties are provided with the same material, information, testimony at the same time.
Well, that's one way of looking at it.

Another might be that stage-management is likely to be easier if all parties, except for the SRC's own team, are provided with the same material, information, testimony at the same time, on very short notice just before the hearing.

They knew better
 in 1937
One of our City Councilors may also misunderstand the role of speed in safety, and apparently no technical staff elected to contest the likely misapprehension:
Referencing bicycle and pedestrian safety issues, Chair Cathy Clark asked if ODOT has reached out to local jurisdiction traffic safety commissions. Councilor Jim Lewis expressed concern that slowing traffic down would increase congestion and accidents. It is important to change the way people think in order to save lives. Discussion focused on existing rules and regulations and the lack of funding for consistent enforcement.
This may be a system/institutional problem with the way the Policy Committee is constituted. Electeds seem free to say things that are in error or are highly unlikely, and support staff do not always feel sufficient power, authority, or responsibility to step in with a correction. (We will come back to this below!) It is right that there is a check-and-balance between Electeds and technical support staff, but it has never seemed like the technical support staff was heading down some crazy direction that the Electeds needed to rein in. (Do you know otherwise?) Instead, it has seemed far more often like Electeds clung to obsolete information, values, or standards and that technical staff needed to be more empowered to make appropriate countervailing gestures or corrections.

via Placemakers
Once again, also, depending on the color of your skin, routine traffic enforcement escalates too often to loss of life. Our approach to traffic safety cannot just simply be a call for "funding for consistent enforcement." If we have to depend on enforcement, our engineering and road designs have failed more fundamentally.

Back to Current Matters On the Agenda

DLDC Greenhouse Gas Target Rule Advisory Committee

One of the biggest areas where the system problems with the Policy Committee comes into play is on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. For Salem-Keizer, sitting on the statewide Greenhouse Gas Target Rule Advisory Committee is a climate change denier. That right there is something of a problem. How in a constructive way do you help make rules on something you believe is false? Is that really possible? Maybe there's a conversion underway, but that doesn't seem very likely.

Currently the Advisory Committee is trying to decide whether to have one greenhouse gas target statewide for all the MPOs or various levels of individual targets for each MPO.

In the initial polling, a bi-level target, with one for Portland, and another for all other MPOs was the most popular and also had the most support at the State.

But Salem's vote was only for an "individual target" and was explained as wanting "a separate target to then negotiate from." It seems probable this would be a delaying tactic, with the emphasis on further negotiation, and with the intent to make the target's amount of change as little as possible.

Given the current composition of the Policy Committee and the apparent lack of institutional firepower on staff to contest false or unlikely stances, SKATS looks to be an "as late as possible" adopter of any greenhouse gas targets and scenario planning. We have had and continue to have a de facto policy of delay and obstruction.

How we manage greenhouse gas reduction is a legitimate policy debate - but whether we should bother even to try seems like a clear instance where technical staff ought to be able to guide debate in "reality-based" directions. This should not be a political football, and the way our Policy Committee is formally constituted may enable too much drift from "reality-based" decision-making. At this moment on climate change, strong leadership almost certainly means things that are unpopular.


There's something of a squabble over a pot of funding.

Apparently we have been eligible for money from a specific pot of Federal funds, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, and ODOT has withheld it.
Under the current allocation formula, the SKATS MPO should be receiving approximately $2.5 million per year and Central Lane MPO $2.25 million per year in CMAQ funding that could be used for public transit, traffic flow improvements, travel demand management, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and other eligible projects to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion.

The SKATS MPO Policy Committee -- representing the cities of Salem, Keizer, and Turner, the Salem urbanized area in Marion and Polk Counties, and the Salem Area Mass Transit District -- brings this concern to you today because funding that is due to the SKATS MPO since at least 2009 has not been allocated by ODOT; and ODOT recommended to the Oregon Transportation Commission in August 2016 to not allocate any CMAQ funding to the Salem-Keizer MPO until at least 2019, which would be 10 years after SKATS became CMAQ eligible.
So there's a full-court press with the Oregon Transportation Commission between the MPO, its cities, Cherriots, and other partners to get our fair share of CMAQ funds.

It does not look on the surface like there's an obvious, easy solution, so any change would likely be a political compromise and take some time to accomplish.

Fund Exchange

This is hard to interpret, but it seems interesting, especially as it involves the Union Street bikeway.
ODOT has had several discussions this year with the three large MPOs about the option of fund exchange for projects. Up to now, ODOT would not allow fund exchange for projects within the three large MPOs but have decided to do "a test" for one project in the SKATS TIP ( i.e., Salem's signal project at Commercial Street NE and Uni on Street). City of Salem staff have supported the fund exchange proposal for this project as they feel they can deliver the project faster and at less cost without the federal funds.

For a project within SKATS that is programmed with federal funds, the federal funds would be exchanged with state funds at 94 percent, the same rate ODOT uses with local agencies outside MPOs. To comply with federal regulations that say an MPO's federal funds need to be spent inside the MPO boundary, ODOT would transfer the $618,500 in STP-U funds currently programmed for the Union Street/Commercial Street signal project to an ODOT project inside SKATS (the ODOT project that will receive the funds has not yet been determined).

Staff wanted to inform the Policy Committee of this fund exchange pilot proposal, answer any questions, and request that SKATS, ODOT, and Salem proceed with the fund exchange. Developing the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) could take several months. No action is needed until a TIP Adjustment is requested by ODOT and Salem which will require Policy Committee action.
So is this an interesting way to reduce what can sometimes be a burdensome obligation in red tape? Or is this a way to evade meaningful Federal requirements that help raise a project's quality, improve its fairness, or minimize the environmental footprint?

It may be that we have to see the other half, the ODOT project, to evaluate the swap. Hopefully that new project won't take away what the Union Street project gives for non-auto mobility. (Are these funds to get swapped into the Salem River Crossing, for example?)

Other Notes

SKATS Quadrennial Review is October 12-13, 2016. Staff will describe the opportunity for the public and Policy Committee members to be involved in this federal review of the SKATS Metropolitan Planning Process.
This might be interesting. Streetsblog has a piece on an analysis of Austin's MPO in Texas. It points out "that women, people of color, and urban residents are significantly underrepresented at CAMPO — with potentially profound consequences for transportation policy."

This underrepresentation is probably in play here also. There are several women on staff and among Electeds, so our problem with that part may not be quite so acute, but we have few people of color and the various board compositions definitely overweigh, say, County representation relative to, say, City of Salem representation. It would be interesting to see the representation reapportioned by population numbers. Salem's role would bump up, and Turner's would decline. But at present Turner has the same vote as Salem.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
So it will be interesting to see what all the Federal review comprises and what room there might be for comment or critique.

SKATS Policy Committee meets Tuesday the 27th at noon. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Quadrennial Review, there will be opportunities for the public to provide comment to the FHWA/FTA representatives. Once FHWA/ftA has finalized the schedule it will posted on our website and distributed via multiple outlets.