Monday, July 21, 2014

Local MPO to Consider Road Classification Scheme

Our local MPO meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 22nd. On the agenda (includes full meeting packet) for the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study is a "Review of the Functional Classification and National Highway System (NHS) in the SKATS Area."

The functional classification is that whole local-collector-arterial heirarchy. It's a small-medium-large typology that maps essentially to a twig-branch-trunk model of a tree.

It turns out that the feds, counties, and cities don't necessarily use the same exact terms or classify the roads in the same exact way.

Talk about a headache!

So the review is at least superficially a clean up.

One of several pages of "change request form"
A segment of Chemeketa is highlighted
For example, the feds apparently still classify Chemeketa as a "major collector" in some places, and the section between 12th and 14th now has two dead-ends/diverters, and it is most certainly NOT a collector. So the review proposes a federal reclassification of it as a "local" street.

Makes perfect sense.

There are many pages of street segments like this, some proposed to be reclassify upwards as "bigger" streets, others downwards, like Chemeketa was, as "smaller" streets.

Why does this matter?  Maybe the most important here is that "The Federal [classification] is determine the eligibility of roads for federal funds." The smallest road eligible for federal funds is an "urban minor collector," so the roads or road segments being downgraded from collector to local would no longer be eligible for federal funds; similarly, roads being upgraded might become newly eligible.

Interestingly, the review also appears to contain a small curb on the tendency to overbuild and over-engineer:
the federal functional classification should be based on how the road operates today and not how it will operate when built-out. Also, only those roads that are built, or will be built within the next four years, should be identified and classified.
Finally, you may remember talk about the National Highway System.

There was uncertainty and even fear that some city roads (see the downtown grid for example) considered part of the National Highway System would have to be overbuilt or otherwise have to be brought into conformance with essentially irrelevant - or even deleterious - federal standards for highways.

The matters don't yet seem to be fully resolved:
A larger issue was the addition of all roads classified as a Federal Principal Arterial as of October 1, 2012, to the National Highway System (NHS). There are a number of implications of having a road designated as part of the NHS. These have been discussed at a number of SKATS TAC meetings. Discussions with staff from ODOT and FHWA have been inconclusive as to whether a road can be removed from the NHS while retaining the Federal Principal Arterial classification. For the purposes of this work, it was assumed that for a road to be requested to be removed from the NHS, the federal functional classification would also need to be changed.
The review and proposed reclassification is one of those administrative things that looks benign, but sure seems like it might have unintended or unanticipated consequences. It's hard to know what really to make of it - how it matters for those of us who travel the roads and want better roads for all users, especially those who aren't making drive-alone trips.

In other matters, to cover a shortfall, SKATS will redirect some money from a Wheatland Road project for sidewalks and bike lanes to a Chemawa Road project for the same.

SKATS Policy Committee meets at noon on Tuesday the 22nd at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Bar Andaluz and Table Five 08.

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