Monday, March 3, 2014

Grilling ConnectOregon Links: It's Sausage Time at Area Commission on Transportation

It's not just the Legislature whose activities sometimes might look like making sausage!

The evaluation process on applications for the lottery-funded ConnectOregon V program is underway. On Thursday the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation meets and a large item of interest will be the update and overview of the local applications and the administrative process for reviewing them.  Also on the agenda is an update on the draft 2015-2018 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (all 244pp here).

Also, last month the parent Oregon Transportation Commission met and there's interesting news about several plans there.

ConnectOregon V at MWACT

The Kroc Center Path and the Lottery

Maybe most interesting - but to be clear, not the most important - element in the application process is the packet on the Kroc Center path.

The Salvation Army declined to address gambling
It contains the letter of support for the Kroc Center path written by the Salvation Army.

Buy a lottery ticket,
Support a path
Here again is what the Salvation Army has to say on gambling:
The Salvation Army is opposed to gambling. The nature of gambling lends itself to exploitative, deceptive and manipulative practices. It is contrary to Christian principles of love, freedom from oppression and concern for others.

As such it should not be a means of income generation or economic development, whether by government agencies, charitable organisations, churches or commercial interests....

Gambling is becoming increasingly common and accessible, often promoted and enabled by governments. Gambling may be large and sophisticated – such as lotteries, casinos, slot machines, online gambling or sports betting – or small and loosely organised informal games of chance. [italics added]
It's really hard to see how this stance can be consistent with the lottery and video-poker funding mechanism behind ConnectOregon.

At the same time, a different source of funding will be pursued if this one doesn't work out, and it's not like this project couldn't have switched places with a different project on another funding track.  So again, this isn't that important, but it's very interesting as a measure of how screwed up is the whole Kroc Center siting and total funding package.

Scoring and the Evaluation Process - Biased for Air and Rail?

More important, but not very interesting at all, is the preliminary scoring on the local projects.

Here's an abbreviated list of the scoring criteria:
  • a) Reduces transportation costs for Oregon businesses or improves access to jobs and sources of labor?
  • b) Results in an economic benefit to this state?
  • c) A critical link connecting elements of Oregon’s transportation system that will measurably improve utilization and efficiency of the system?
  • d) How much of the cost can be borne from any [other] source?
  • e) Ready for construction?
Here's some of the sausage-making!
Scoring for Considerations a, c, d, and e was conducted by ConnectOregon V staff including Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for rail, transit, and bicycle/pedestrian, Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) for marine, and Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) for aviation staff....Scoring for Consideration b was conducted concurrently by Oregon Department of Transportation economists and Oregon Business Development Department Business Development Officers for each application.
So there's the way the score shook out on the Kroc Center path:

The Kroc Center path scores low tier 2

The other projects MWACT will see:

Parks and Rec - Bike Pods score tier 3

Cherriots South Salem Transit Center - mid tier 2
Takes big hit because not shovel-ready;
otherwise, it scores quite strong
The other bike/ped projects looked like they scored middling as well:  A trail and stair project in Silverton scored very low tier 3 and a Newberg-Dundee trail scored low tier 2.

Were there any tier 1 projects?  Why, yes there were!  An airport runway project in McMinnville and a truck and rail connection hub in Dallas both scored 43 points.

So one question is whether opening ConnectOregon to bike/ped projects will result in any actual funding?  On the surface, a preliminary look at the scoring rubrics suggests the criteria might remain biased significantly in favor of rail and air. If the program remains open to bike/ped projects, it may be necessary to revise the criteria. Greenhouse gas emissions, for example, are not among the scoring criteria.

There is also a structural mismatch perhaps.  The projects must generally be out of the highway right-of-way (basically any roadway), but stores and businesses - things that generate "economic benefit" - to which one might bike and walk are usually located on the right-of-way, so the kinds of bike/ped projects eligible for funding will tend to be recreational trails, and we don't yet have good metrics for the economic benefits these generate. Moreover, since recreational activities are not core "cost-of-living" kinds of things, they probably won't generate as much direct economic benefit as the movement of durable goods or food or other things considered in the core "cost-of-living" indexes.

So based on this overview, even though bike/ped projects constituted the largest share of ConnectOregon V applications, I wonder how many will be successful.  I don't see much "position for success"; rather, I see a system indirectly designed for their failure still.

Additionally, bear in mind internal politics. We have seen how the requirement for "consensus" might hinder unusual, visionary, or other kinds of projects that are not solidly in the mainstream. Cherriots wish for funding on the South Salem Transit Center project is a reason to "play nice" and not take a critical stand on something like the Third Bridge.

More sausage-making to come!
There are still several layers of review yet to come, and it will be interesting to see if the rankings are altered.  It's clear the "economic benefit" analysis has been done, but I'm not sure that the scoring includes the verdicts of the "modal review committees."  Maybe some projects will rise or fall after this modal review.  More to come, obviously.

MWACT meets Thursday, March 6th at 3:30 p.m., in the MWVCOG offices at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200 above La Capitale and Bar Andaluz.

(For a while, all the ground meat and local ConnectOregon apps can be downloaded here. The links and pdfs will not persist, however. For more on the STIP, which includes the final round of funding for the Minto Bridge, see previous note here.)

Oregon Transportation Commission

The parent of the MWACT, the OTC, met last month on the 20th (agenda).  BikePortland has an interesting note about an adopted resolution to put the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail high on the priority list for funding.

There were some other interesting things in the meeting.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

There was a report on the Statewide Transportation Strategy:  A 2050 Vision for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction, specifically on the short-term implementation plan.

The short-term plan doesn't mention bikes! On one of the cheapest, easiest, most healthy forms of mobility it is silent.  Instead, it's all about the car battery:
ODOT Implementation Programs
This plan recommends the following seven programs for implementation:
1. Electric Vehicles and Low Emission Fuels
2. Eco-Driving
3. Road User Charge Economic Analysis
4. Scenario Planning and Strategic Assessments
5. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
6. Transportation Planning and Project Selection
7. Stakeholder Coordination
Even the long range plan is weirdly whiny and tentative about walking and biking - "it's too hard!"

Lack of sustainable funding, conflict, challenge!
It looks like it's full of excuses as it retreats from real action. It's hard to feel much optimism about something like this.

As noted in a summary of Gil Penalosa's Eugene talk,
Gil channeled Phil Knight: “Just do it.” Don’t spend a lot of time planning 50, 20, or even 10 years in the future. If you can’t make it happen in the next 5 years, it’s because you don’t really want to. In his first 30 days as mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel installed protected bicycle lanes on busy streets where it had previously been too dangerous to bicycle. Gil said that the challenges we face are really opportunities, and that usually what we lack isn’t the technical know-how but the political will.
Statewide Transportation Options

In light of the timidity of that greehouse gas plan, it's interesting to see a brief information report on - wait for it! - another plan.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is developing Oregon’s first Transportation Options Plan (TO Plan)...

The purpose of the Plan is to establish a vision and policy guidance that integrates transportation options in local, regional, and state transportation planning, programming, and investment....

Transportation options strategies, programs, and investments enhance traveler opportunities and choices to bike, walk, take transit, share rides, and telecommute. Such strategies can be used as solutions to problems of system capacity and as a way of creating an efficient transportation system for a multitude of users and uses.
The Policy Advisory Committee has no local representatives - and interestingly, the bike representative, Jerry Norquist of Cycle Oregon, comes from tourism, rather than commuting. The OTC will get a bigger update later, and it will be interesting to see where the balance between words and action/funding falls.

An ODOT Move?

Finally, across the street from the Prison, ODOT has a large facility at State Street and Airport Road.

Old ODOT facility at State and Airport Road
Known as the East Salem Complex, it could move out to Turner Road. There's a proposal to relocate to some other land owned by the Department of Corrections.

ODOT may purchase land from the Prison and move
With proximity to Mill Creek and Shelton Ditch, the older buildings and lots are prone to flooding.  But at least it is possible to bike to that facility.  Out on Turner Road, a new ODOT facility would be totally car-dependent.  That's not a very good expression of sustainable transportation! Of course, that's not the only variable, so it's hard to say whether a better solution is feasible.

For example, could ODOT use some of the State Hospital North Campus?  Could that be part of an innovating mixed-use, public-private kind of development?  Both it and the DOC parcel are inside the City Limits, so it's not like going to the DOC parcel ODOT gives back some land to the tax rolls.

Based on a surface read, it feels here like the move out on Turner Road is just an easy, even lazy move, and that with more thought a solution better suited for the 21st century might be possible!

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And here's news on part of the modal review. From ODOT today:

"SALEM – The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will review 36 applications for ConnectOregon V funds on Monday and Tuesday, March 10 and 11 in Corvallis at the Oregon Department of Transportation's District 4 office, 3700 SW Philomath Blvd. The meeting on March 10 will begin at 10:30 a.m. and on March 11 at 8:30 a.m. Applicants will not be making presentations. Public input will be accepted and, due to the large number of applications, will be restricted to three minutes per person. Comments submitted in writing are preferred, as they become part of the application review process. Send comments to ConnectOregon Program Manager Chris Cummings at"