Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comment on Draft Criteria for 2012-15 State Transportation Projects

The Oregon Transportation Commission can adopt better ways to evaluate and rank large road projects!

Late last month the Oregon Environmental Council sent out a note urging the public to comment on the draft eligibility criteria and prioritization factors for the 2012-2015 STIP.

Comments are due by February 19th, 2010

Submit your comments to Lucia Ramirez, Principal Planner in ODOT’s Transportation Development Division, at Lucia.L.RAMIREZ@odot.state.or.us. Lucia can also be reached at 503-986-4168.

Deputy OEC Director Chris Hagerbaumer writes:
Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) strongly urges you to review and comment on these criteria and prioritization factors because we have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure improved transportation decision making in the state.

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is the funding and scheduling document for major road, highway, and transit projects in Oregon. It lists projects for the next four years...

During the 2009 legislative session, OEC and others forwarded a set of 10 considerations to be incorporated into STIP criteria, which were adopted as part of House Bill 2001 (see the list on page 4 of the draft). Three are of particular interest to OEC:
8. Fosters livable communities by demonstrating that the investment does not undermine sustainable urban development. This consideration is addressed in the new criterion “Implement OHP Policy 1B: Land Use and Transportation” on pages 24-25.

9. Enhances the value of transportation projects through designs and development that reflect environmental stewardship and community sensitivity. This consideration is addressed primarily in the new criterion “Implement OHP Policy 5A: Environmental Resources” on pages 27-28.

10. Is consistent with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and reduces this state’s dependence on foreign oil. This consideration is addressed in the new criterion “Implement OHP Policy 5A: Environmental Resources” on pages 27-28, as well as the discussion of least cost planning in the introduction.

While OEC believes the revisions suggested by the STIP Stakeholder Committee go a long way toward ensuring adequate consideration of these goals, it’s our opinion that the proposal falls a bit short with regard to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) goals.*

The introduction (see pages 4-9) discusses how GHGs should be considered, but is a bit schizophrenic in its recommendations....

OEC feels that entities proposing transportation projects should be given a consistent signal that the time has arrived for addressing the global warming consequences of transportation infrastructure choices. Every transportation and land use decision made has GHG consequences that will last far into the future, and in order to meet the state’s 2020 and 2050 GHG reduction goals we must make the correct choices now. Even without a perfect means of assessing the GHG implications of a specific project, VMT, fleet mix and modal split can serve as a rough proxy for GHGs in the mean time.

Even if you don't want to wonk out on detail, drop Lucia Ramirez a note to say that assessing projects for greenhouse gas impact is one of the most important future tasks for transportation planning.

*italics added

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