Saturday, January 8, 2011

Transportation Enhancement Applications, Take 2

In December the SKATS Policy Committee thoroughly revised their priorities for the Transportation Enhancement candidate projects. The list posted earlier this week was thrown out, and a new list generated.

The new and adopted prioritized list is this:

1. Delaney Road in Turner
2. Hayesville Drive in unincorporated Marion County
3. Wheatland Road in Keizer
4. Brush College Road in West Salem.

According to the unapproved minutes, Policy Committee
Vice Chair Clark reminded committee members that the city of Turner had not received any American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds due to the short timeline for allocating those funds. She emphasized connectivity and school issues related to the Delaney project. She noted that the Hayesville project will impact four schools.
Back in June, 2009, the City of Turner had agreed to release its $50,000 in stimulus (ARRA) funds for a project on Chicago street that did not exactly meet the federal requirements for stimulus monies.

So the top three recommendations are for the City of Turner, unincorporated Marion County, and the City of Keizer. All of the projects are for sidewalks and bike lanes near schools. As such, they are worthy projects.

But you have to ask, if sidewalks and bike lanes represent current standards, shouldn't they be already funded, and project applications instead actually represent enhancements that exceed current standards?

The priorities also illustrate funding gaps and traditional and legacy auto-centric development choices for small towns and rural communities (even though the Hayesville project is in a highly developed area, since it is unincorporated and remains in the county, it is in this sense "rural").

Three projects outside of the Salem area appear on the surface to meet the "enhancement" standard much better - just as the Union St. Railroad Bridge project did. Applications to fill gaps in the trail along the Historic Columbia River Highway, to build cycletrack and bike boulevard connections near OMSI, to build bridges on the Cazadero State Trail, all seem to go above and beyond minimum road standards. These are the kinds of projects Salemites should press for!

Instead, the current round of TE applications is being used for bike lanes and sidewalks because we don't want to allocate more of the bond measure and other funds for current minimum standards.

It is difficult to be nuanced and realistic about this round of local applications.  It's not like they are bad projects; on the contrary, they are good projects.  But when we are planning to spend over $11M on creating an expressway level interchange at Wallace and Glen Creek, it's even more difficult to see the funding choices as wise and the applications for mere sidewalks and bike lanes as competitive. 

Here's the public comment survey.

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