Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Regional List of Transportation Enhancements Shows Priorities

It's hard to get excited by the seven projects area governments are submitting for Transportation Enhancement grant monies in this cycle.

It's not that the projects are bad. Indeed they are all varying degrees of good. The problem is, almost all of them consist in bringing roads up to current standards. They should be normal improvements. As "enhancements" go, they're a bit slight. As the TE website says,
The intent of the [TE] Program is to fund special or additional activities not normally required on a highway or transportation project. [emphasis added]

Fortunately, the trickiest one is also the one with the highest recommendation from SKATS, our regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Improving the railroad crossing on Hines St. SE, between 13th and 14th is just a standard project of sidewalks and bike lanes. But because of the Union Pacific switching yard just to the south, the switch just to the north will need to be relocated out of the way. That takes special sauce.

The other projects are all variations on bringing arterial or collector streets up to current standards. These illustrations are from the City of Salem Transportation System Plan, but they are representative. Bike lanes and sidewalks are normal requirements as part of the standards.

The other six projects (first two tied for second priority) are:
  • Hayesville Drive NE near Stevens Middle School in Marion County
  • Delany Road in Turner

  • Brush College NW at Doaks Ferry NW in Salem
  • Brown Road NE north of Sunnyview NE in Salem
  • Brooklake Road NE at Portland Road in Marion County
  • Wheatland Road NE in Keizer

Each of them is simply bringing a substandard road up to current standards with bike lanes and sidewalks. That's not a whole lot of "enhancement" and is rather a commentary on our current funding priorities, which directed federal stimulus funds and local bond funds mostly to widening for auto capacity expansion. It's too bad "normal" funds couldn't build to the standards with sidewalks and bike lanes, and TE funds build things "above and beyond" standards and minimums. This isn't just because funds are increasingly scarce; it's because of the choices we make with existing funding.

It will be interesting to see the full statewide list to see how competitive are these projects. Salem's application for the ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant missed the cut, it was announced last week.

(It is believed that this same list will be submitted for the Non-Highway Flexible Funds program.)

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