Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bike and Ped Projects at the Metropolitian Planning Organization

Yesterday the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study Policy Committee (our regional MPO) met for the first time after a summer break.

There were no big decisions or news. The most interesting part was the list of TE projects, and the way they related to other funding cycles and project planning.

In an August 24th letter, SKATS Director Richard Schmid listed the seven projects in the Salem-Keizer area that will compete for Transportation Enhancement dollars. The application deadline is tomorrow, and while not all applications were complete, no one expected any not to get completed.
Wheatland Road North - Sidewalks, curbs, bike lanes, storm water management

Marion County
Brooklake Road Northeast - Pedestrian Enhancements
Hayesville Drive Northeast - Bicycle and Pedestrian Enhancements

Brown Road Northeast - Sidewalks and bike lanes from Sunnyview Road Northeast to city limits
Brush College Road Northwest - Construct missing section of sidewalk to Doaks Ferry Road, providing access to Brush College Elementary
Hines Street Southeast - Railroad crossing pedestrian facilities

Delany Road urban upgrade - Construct sidewalk and bike lane between 3rd and 7th streets, including railroad crossing
Between October and December SKATS committees will assess and prioritize the list and ultimately supply ODOT with a preferred order at the beginning of the year.

At that time the project packets will also have maps and fuller descriptions of the proposed improvements.

Staff also discussed updates on demographic analyses: The Population and Employment Projections and Household Travel Survey (which will have information on bicycle travel).

When discussion briefly turned to the $21M in Flex Funds, Cathy Clark from Keizer recommended that the same list of seven TE projects be submitted.

It was disappointing to hear this. Most of the projects are basic sidewalk, bike lane, and storm drain upgrades. That is, they take roads that are currently substandard, and seek to bring them up to standard. It is disappointing to see this move towards a basic standard construed as an "enhancement." That's a pretty low floor!

Moreover, the flex fund goals themselves aim much higher, and it is difficult to imagine that these seven projects will compete successfully against the kinds of projects Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis will certainly be proposing.

The Policy Committee members complained, with some justification, about the short timeline. But the problem is not the short timeline. The problem is the area's historic neglect for good bicycle infrastructure projects, and the fact that there are very few, if any, in the pipeline. The Rivercrossing Alt Modes Study has lots of great projects - but none of them far enough along the planning process, apparently.

Meanwhile, the committee got a report on the River Crossing from Dan Fricke. So far $4M has been spent on a project that may not get built (one critic calls it a boondoggle - see here and here), and another $1.9M is "in the bank" for planning that will follow the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. That's $6M that could have been spent on multi-modal project planning that would actually reduce congestion, reduce greenhouse gases, improve health and livability, and yield actual construction jobs!

The release of the DEIS continues to be delayed, and now appears to be no earlier than February. The project management team will get to see a "study committee draft," the first draft of the whole, the end of this week. It will pass through several layers of comment and revision, at both the local and federal levels.

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