Saturday, April 18, 2015

Council Meets Monday to Set Goals - Tell them to Fix it First!

On Monday Council assembles in a work session to discuss "Council Goals," the high level policy document that will guide staff and Council action for the next year or two.

The Final Fantasy: Funding Strategy for a Third Bridge
Councilor Andersen has made no secret of his intent to try to redirect Council towards a goal to "fix it first," of fixing our existing bridges and investing in a seismic retrofit adequate to the expected Cascadian Subduction Zone megaquake for which we are due.

Even the Road Builders Lobby says:
The Marion Street Bridge should be fixed first!
No Third Bridge expects to have a large audience out in silent support for the motion.

Given Councilor Lewis' interest in Marine Drive, it seems likely that he and his allies will try for an opposite gesture.

Five votes for "fix it first" will not be easy to get.
The Oversight Team has been quiet this winter, but recently posted a couple of new updates related to the funding workshop activity in December.

Oversight Team Summary
In it is a note about the need to have at least one funded project in the regional plan in order to secure a formal foothold for the "Record of Decision."

The SKATS TIP has to have a funded project
for the Record of Decision
It seems likely that a Marine Drive project will be this "foothold" - so that's another reason to be extra skeptical about the value of Marine Drive.

The funding memo points out what has already been apparent, that it could be funded locally with property taxes and System Development Charges and wouldn't have to wait on State or Federal action.

Marine Drive funded locally
The funding memo also talks about trying to grab up to $50 million in ODOT "Enhance" funding for the project.
The possibility of Enhance funding
Since there's no Record of Decision yet, I don't think this will be in play this time, but applications for the next round of 2018-2021 "Enhance" funding just opened, and it's is large source of prospective funding for non-auto mobility projects. Here's a discussion of some kinds of non-auto projects "Enhance" funding might support (from the FAQ):
Streetscaping improvements to a highway that serves as a community main street, which can make biking, walking, and transit more attractive and safe options, and increase a community’s economic vitality and livability by providing a more attractive street environment.
  • A project that includes improvements providing better pedestrian and bicycle access to transit stops along a highway corridor, making transit a safer and more attractive alternative to driving on the state system.
  • A project that fills gaps in the biking and walking networks around schools, providing safer travel options for children and reducing morning congestion associated with parents driving children to school. (Infrastructure projects are eligible for Enhance. Education/outreach types of projects are eligible for funds from ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division.)
  • Enhancements to major historic/cultural sites, points of interest along a Scenic Byway or Bikeway, and transportation facilities that provide access to these destinations, thereby improving visitors’ quality of experience and supporting tourism benefits to Oregon’s communities.
  • A project that improves or fills gaps on a regional trail that is designed and routed to serve a transportation function, providing safe, comfortable, and attractive options for biking or walking as an alternative to driving.
A project like the Third Bridge would suck up all or virtually all of the Salem area allocation of "Enhance" funding and jeopardize or even eliminate our ability to fund other, more worthwhile projects.

It's not just the cost of a Third Bridge, it's the opportunity cost: If we choose to fund this, what then do we have to give up?
Consider attending the Goal setting session or writing Council to support Councilor Andersen and to say "fix it first."

Council meets at 6:00pm on Monday in the Andersen Rooms at the Library. (See N3B for more.)


Jim Scheppke said...

Thanks for pointing this out. It went up very quietly on the SRC website and is not prominent on the site, like it should be. A couple of things to note about Table 2, which you feature. The idea of getting $150 million from the Legislature is a total fantasy. The $45 million in state and federal funding is more realistic and came straight out of the mouth of the ODOT representative to the Oversight Team when asked directly how much state and federal funding to expect for this project. If you use that number and forget the $150 million, it's funny to me that that row in the table doesn't sum to $430 million. We're paying CH2M HILL $60,000 a month and they can't add! ;-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

From the memo:

"It was pointed out that the sum of all the funding amounts proposed exceeded the revenue needs of the project. It was clarified that the values placed in the table represented upper ranges of revenue that could potentially be raised for each of the funding sources. If one or more of the funding sources was not secured, it may be necessary to pursue increased funding from another source up to the maximum shown to meet the need."

" OT member suggested that it was reasonable to anticipate project funding contributions being approximately 50% from local revenue sources and 50% from state and federal sources. This project has the same ability to affect the state as Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville (Hwy. 20), the NewbergDundee bypass, and the I-5 interchange area in Woodburn, which all received a high percentage of state funding."

Remember Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville: According to one story, In 2005 it was going to be $129 million, but because of unstable soils and other things, it required a do-over and the cost its up over $365 million. ODOT is very good with small- and medium-sized projects, but is lousy at very large projects. So this is exactly right: The Salem Alternative is in a liquifaction zone and would affect the State, the City, and the region with budget-busting overages (not to mention the tolling fund underprojections) just like the Pioneer Mountain-Eddyvill project!

And again:

"To reiterate, the sum of all the funding amounts proposed exceeds the revenue needs of the project and should be viewed as suggested maximum values that could potentially be secured with each of the funding sources. The development of financial plans for large transportation infrastructure projects such as this is an iterative process where the funding strategies are often modified based on the success or failure in securing funding."

In the commentary on the table, they don't hide the fact that the columns don't sum right.

Anyway, the document is largely fiction - and yet is it just "plausible" enough apparently that it satisfies NEPA requirements!

Jim Scheppke said...

Regarding the NEPA requirements, I like the footnote at the bottom of the first page:

"1 This cost estimate will be refined and updated for the Final Environmental Impact Statement."

I think the $430 estimate is probably way too low, but they are trying to keep it under $500 so that the FHWA does not actually have to approve the funding plan:

"Per Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidance (FHWA, 2014), the SRC Project, as a project with an estimated cost between $100 million and $500 million, would be required to prepare a Financial Plan. An initial Financial Plan would need to be submitted to FHWA prior to FHWA project authorization for construction; however, a Financial Plan is not required to be prepared during the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) process as a prerequisite to the project being issued a Record of Decision (ROD) by FHWA."

The Sellwood Bridge is now pushing $320 million. It is half a long as the Salem Alternative, is a replacement and not a brand new bridge, is not in a liquefaction zone and does not include additional connection roads and ramps. If CH2M HILL is honest, the cost is going to climb, hopefully over $500 million so FHWA will have to approve the funding plan, which would be impossible.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

One of the great mysteries on this project is how many statements and how much evidence that are "probably not true" are yet accepted as "plausible enough" for legal and bureaucratic action. Little about the process is actually based on "best available evidence" or "most likely to be true."