Sunday, February 26, 2017

At the MPO: 2018 - 2023 Area Project List Nearly Ready for Public Release

On Tuesday the 28th, the Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets at noon, and there are several things to note. (Agenda and packet here.)

Release the TIP!

The biggest item is the draft 2018-2023 Transportation Improvement Program.

The main action will be a "Motion to direct staff to release the draft SKATS FY 2018-2023 TIP for public review and comment."

I think this will lead to an Open House, a formal comment period, and a Public Hearing.

What is a TIP?

The Executive Summary says:
The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for federal fiscal year (FY) 2018-2023 is the region’s short range capital improvements program for roads, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, transit, and other transportation elements in the Salem-Keizer-Turner urbanized area...it includes lists of transportation projects proposed for FY 2018 through 2023. The TIP is developed through a cooperative planning process by the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS), this area’s federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

As part of the planning process for the development of the TIP, the financial plan covers proposed transportation investments. The financial plan demonstrates which projects can be implemented (annually) using current revenues and funding sources...

This document describes how more than $160 million will be invested to support our transportation system over the next four years. SKATS has discretion over programming nearly $40 million in federal funds for FY 2018-2021...
Federal requirements strongly shape the process, and there may not be much flexibility in it, but the comment period is positioned at the very end of a process that started in the spring of 2016.

The real opportunity for the public to shape or influence the TIP comes earlier in the process, mostly in 2016. It is an interesting exercise to consider what level of public comment - how much outrage really - it would take to alter substantially a project, to delete one, or to add one at this near end-stage to the TIP. (New projects would probably instead be added as amendments after this TIP is adopted. This happens routinely, it should be noted.)

Since the TIP is a compilation - the MPO doesn't originate projects - of projects mostly from cities, counties, and the state, at this point in the process this seems like an opportunity mainly for rubber-stamping rather than an opportunity to influence. Still, the aggregate of comment might help shape the next round of projects, as well as the on-going amendment process as new projects are added. They'll also begin working on the next one in not too long, and that's something to keep in mind.

Projects in the TIP

If in your peripheral vision you've noticed the City 's Capital Improvements Plan, the State's All Roads Transportation Safety program, the State's "Enhance" and "Fix-it" programs, as well as the "STBGP-U and TA-U funds" vetting here at the MPO, you'll be aware of many of the projects.

Detail from Figure 4, map of projects (legend enlarged)
But whether you've followed any of the processes or not, it's nice to see them all collated and mapped.

Once the draft is formally released, we may circle back and drill into more detail.

Some of the notable projects are:
  • Enhanced crosswalks with flashing beacons on Wallace Road between Narcissus Court and Vick Avenue
  • The sidewalk on 12th Street between Hoyt and McGilchrist
  • Sidewalks and bike lanes on Brown Road 
  • Buffered bike lanes on middle Commercial Street between Oxford Street and Winding Way (Commercial-Vista Corridor plan!)
  • Right-sizing with lane adjustments for safety on North Broadway between Pine and the Parkway - aka a road diet.
  • Key intersection and crosswalk safety enhancements near schools and two on the Winter-Maple bikeway
  • Marine Drive from Glen Creek to the UGB*
  • A complete bikeway on Union Street from Commercial Street to 12th Street (The illustration on the cover and inside of the TIP uses an older, now obsolete image of the project, so hopefully that can be updated.)
  • Property acquisition and design for McGilchrist between 12th and 25th, including full sidewalks and bike lanes.
  • Sidewalks and bike lanes on Verda Road between Dearborn and the Parkway.
  • Sidewalks and bike lanes on Hayesville Road between Portland Road and Fuhrer (2 projects).
  • Sidewalks and bike lanes on 45th between Silverton Road and Ward.
  • Sidewalks and bike lanes on Hollywood Driver between Silverton Road and Greenfield.
  • Partial funding for the South Salem Transit Station
(*Wait! What does this mean now? The Marine Drive project was formulated before the UGB expansion by City Council. In this particular project language does "UGB" mean the pre-expansion version, or does it float with the enlarged boundary and has it now become much larger in scope? There might be more to say on this.)

Environmental Justice in the TIP

The chapter on Environmental Justice will also repay a visit once the draft is formally released.

Project map and overlay of ethnicity and income for
analysis of Environmental Justice
Even though the work product here is also subtitled "Air Quality Conformity Determination," it seems likely that the full effects of I-5, Cordon Road, Portland Road, the Parkway (and prospect of the SRC) are not adequately assessed for health outcomes and for non-criteria pollutants like arsenic in these vulnerable neighborhoods. There is also no systematic and strategic program to build out robust alternatives to drive-alone trips, effectively enforcing our compulsory autoism. Instead, the alternatives arise out of a more ad hoc framework.

The analytical framework for Environmental Justice is also autoist in some regards:
The second category of projects include improvements such as turn‐lane additions, road widening, complete streets, new signals or upgrades, signal interconnects (ITS), realignments, bridge replacements or repairs. These projects are considered beneficial for drivers by improving safety and travel times. [italics added]
3/4 of projects in the "target population area"
Still, the distribution of walking and biking projects seemed to be distributed fairly, with three-quarters of them in the "target" area.

Other Matters

Also on the agenda is a draft Public Participation Plan

Probably the biggest things to note are:
  • There are no people of color on the Policy Committee
  • By population, Polk and Marion Counties, as well as the City of Turner, are way overrrepresented on the Policy Committee, and the City of Salem very underrepresented. Rural matters and priorities are given undue weight in what is an ostensibly "metropolitan" organization. It's like a gerrymandered set of districts!
  • Those acronyms and the jargon. They make it really tough to write about things.
It has seemed that these first two facts about the institutional composition and representation are more important than the fact that it is difficult for a mixed and ambiguous entity like SKATS to rouse great public interest and public participation. One commenter here has suggested a Citizen Advisory Committee be restarted, but is not clear in watching those sponsored by the City of Salem how much power and influence they actually have. But it is an idea.

Again, once the document is formally released maybe there will be more to say.

Proposed Critical Urban Freight Corridors
The Committee looks to "Endorse the list of potential Critical Urban Freight Corridors, and direct staff to provide the list to ODOT."

Designating the Salem River Crossing as one probably is a step towards seeking a greater share of Federal funding. This underscores the importance of basing a critique of it based on the fact that it is harmful and bad policy, not because "we can't afford it." There are some scenarios in which we seemingly could afford it.

Designating the Center Street Bridge could be a prelude to seeking funding for the seismic retrofit, a move that would be very sensible.

The cluster of McGilchrist, 25th, and Mission is interesting and maybe a little ambiguous. It could attract funding, but will "freight" swamp all other needs, and make it difficult to ensure these corridors are also walkable and bikeable with facilities based on current best practices, not legacy 1980s standards? If funding for the sidepath on 25th were included, that would be very helpful. At least in rhetoric, early concepts for McGilchrist also seem to include full sidewalks and bike lanes. The OR-22 plan also includes a winding sidepath (brief note here) to deal with connecting 25th to Lancaster and Cordon, and avoiding I-5.

Just as an aside or hand-out, the Oregon Transportation Forum's "2017 Transportation funding and policy recommendations" is included in the meeting packet. A broad group particpates in the coalition and has endorsed it, including AAA, Oregon Trucking Assocation, 1000 Friends, Oregon Environmental Council, and the Street Trust. So there is hope it will guide legislative efforts.

2017 State Legislation "framework"
We'll see how it turns out!

Finally, from last month's minutes on greenhouse gases, perhaps as illustrating the disproportionate county and rural influence on our Metropolitan Planning Organization:
Commissioner Sam Brentano reported that his work on the DLCD Target Rule Advisory Committee (TRAC) has been completed. TRAC recommendations will be presented this Friday to Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission for a public hearing. Commissioner Brentano expressed dissatisfaction with the recommendations overall. The existing Target Rule has emission reductions targets by 2035 that are different for each MPO in the state. The final TRAC recommendation extends the emission targets to the years 2040 through 2050. In addition, all the non-Metro MPOs share a common set of targets, and Metro MPO’s targets are higher than the other MPOs. During the TRAC meetings, Commissioner Brentano had supported the lowest possible target for the SKATS MPO. He expressed continuing concerns regarding expanded DLCD oversight of MPO actions/decisions. Chair Cathy Clark thanked Commissioner Brentano for his efforts and commented that the public has a right to know what is being planned for them.
Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
Councilor Jim Lewis commented that dissention to government regulations can be necessary to ensure that the voice of common sense is being heard regarding what is truly best for all.
SKATS Policy Committee meets Tuesday the 28th at noon. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.

1 comment:

aterp1 said...

Thank you SBoB for keeping us informed. And thank you for the analysis and critique. It's hard for most to keep track of all the ongoing planning. So, a blog like this is a huge help.