Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Funding Processes to Change; Local Politics and Demand Essential

Tomorrow some folks are going to go up to Portland to start talking about statewide transportation funding for 2013.
Join Transportation for Oregon's Future for a discussion and information session about opportunities to fund walking, biking and transit at the state level. This discussion is to introduce funding opportunities, ask questions, and share priorities. Lynn Peterson, Governor Kitzhaber's advisor on Sustainable Communities and Transportation, will be joining us to discuss opportunities for transportation funding in 2013, and to hear from us about our transportation priorities and values.
Hopefully we'll get a report when people get back!

In the meantime, change is beginning to percolate locally.

Almost a couple of weeks ago now, the Portland Bicycle Transportation Alliance wrote about the mid-July Oregon Transportation Commission meeting:
Yesterday the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), which is the citizen-appointed body that directs the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), voted on a new process for how they spend public resources. The OTC approved one process that will determine spending for about 80% of transportation resources, and tabled a decision on how they spend the remaining 20%. Details here.

The policy guidance for 80% of funding, the “fix it” category, essentially says that ODOT will spend the lion’s share of money fixing Oregon’s existing transportation system. This is great news. The policy for the remaining 20%, the “enhance” category, is where biking and walking advocates have focused attention and the BTA has been closely involved. These are the flexible dollars that have provided dedicated funding for biking and walking projects and remain a critical source of funding for active transportation projects in Oregon.
Also tomorrow, the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation (MWACT) meets to discuss the recent OTC decisions.

ODOT describes the ACTs:
In 1996, the OTC authorized regionally based transportation advisory commissions known as Area Commissions on Transportation or ACTs in order to expand opportunities for local citizen involvement in ODOT’s decision making. The OTC responded to local jurisdictions and other stakeholders asking for more opportunity to participate in the early stages of transportation project selection.

Area Commissions on Transportation are advisory bodies chartered by the Oregon Transportation Commission. ACTs address all aspects of transportation (surface, marine, air, and transportation safety) with primary focus on the state transportation system. ACTs consider regional and local transportation issues if they affect the state system. They work with other local organizations dealing with transportation-related issues.

ACTs play a key advisory role in the development of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program [STIP], which schedules funded transportation projects. ACTs establish a public process for area project selection priorities for the STIP. Through that process and following adopted project eligibility criteria, they prioritize transportation problems and solutions and recommend projects in their area to be included in the STIP.

ACTs are represented on the STIP Stakeholder Committee that is charged with developing the project eligibility criteria for the STIP.
There are 12 ACTs in Oregon, and MWACT is ours.

On the Thursday agenda is reviewing the STIP process.
The STIP development process will no longer be developed as a collection of programs tied to specific pools of funding dedicated to specific transportation modes or specialty programs.
Here's the deal, and it's important. As the funding environment changes, there's lots of juicy language and direction from the Governor and the OTC about "cost-effectiveness," "multi-modalism," "greenhouse gas reduction," and "the future." But the underlying selection process will be "developed by local governments and agencies" and advance "solutions that reflect local values and issue concerns."

In other words, the selection process will be political rather than technical in important ways, and if we aren't vocal about asking for safe and complete streets, such projects won't get advanced for funding in the selection process.

This is why Bike and Walk Salem is important. If Council doesn't think there's a demand for projects that make walking and biking more safe, comfortable, attractive, and useful, Council and City staff won't develop projects for funding consideration. Find your Councilor and email them! Or email the entire City Council here.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's another good quote:

"For example, if there is a choice between one project that overwhelmingly benefits one mode for a certain cost and a group of three smaller projects with a similar collective cost that, by themselves, do not have a particularly high value, but collectively have a benefit that approaches the single project, but does so across several modes, the bundle of smaller projects may, in fact, have a higher community value."

I hope I get to see this in reality, not just words! But this underscores the political nature of the "community values."

Citations from July 2012 draft The New STIP Project Selection Process: Guidance and Considerations for Project Application Review and Prioritization, ODOT Region 2.

Jim Scheppke said...

I need to know more about the Bike and Walk Salem Public Hearing on August 13th. Is the Statesman-Journal going to cover that? It's very frustrating that the S-J does a relatively poor job of covering local government these days. Someone needs to email their city hall reporter and BEG to have him cover this story.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Whoops! Didn't include links inline.

Here's the City's web page on Bike and Walk Salem.

And here are the main blog posts on the whole thing dating back to summer 2009, when the grant to fund the process was awarded.

There will be more discussion in the next couple of weeks!

And I hope the paper will cover it without resorting to "war against cars" tropes!