Monday, August 3, 2015

MWACT to Meet Thursday, Updates on the STIP and ARTS - updated

Our local area commission on transportation, MWACT, the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation, meets on Thursday, and it remains astonishing that given the importance of agriculture to Yamhill, Polk, and Marion counties, drought, heat, harvest dates, and climate change don't seem to register much. (Full agenda and meeting packet here.)

You might have seen a couple of front-pagers over the weekend.

The articles, unfortunately, don't make any attempt to relate the summer's weather to larger climate change, to put our local conditions into a larger context of time and space.

But the information is out there, and at some point folks will realize that the argument is not abstract, and can be felt directly. And that this should have great implications for our transportation planning. (But, you know, sooner rather than later please?)

At the last MWACT meeting in June, ODOT gave an update on the new Bike/Ped plan in process.

Fortunately Cathy Clark of Keizer noted that "bike and pedestrian projects are important in being able to meet state greenhouse gas reduction targets" and asked for more funding.

But of course there is some funding out there, we just have to get over the hurdle of being willing to spend less for carbon-intensive drive-alone car trips and more for walking, biking, and busing. In some key ways one crux of the matter is reallocation, not simply finding new funding so that we can retain the same amount to support drive-alone trips.

In other comments there are the usual criticisms and canards about bicycling. It is also interesting that ODOT staff don't seem very keen on contesting factually errant or improbable statements.

On the meeting agenda is an update on the STIP, which appears largely to duplicate the update given to SKATS last week.

More interesting would be the update on the All Roads Transportation Safety program, but the meeting packet does not have any of the presentation materials or a report.

The City is applying for funding for a number of projects, including the proposed rapid flash beacons and crosswalks from the Commecial Vista project, and it would be interesting to learn more about the current state of ARTS at the state level.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
Other than the information items, there doesn't appear to be any action items of great significance on the agenda.

MWACT meets at 3:30 pm on Thursday the 6th at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200 above Bar Andaluz and Table Five08.

Update on Region 2, ARTS

Hey, thanks to a helpful reader with a link to the current 150% funding lists, we can make a few observations!

In Region 2, there are requests on the 150% "hotspot" list for $42 million. $28 million is available.

The spreadsheet is hard to fiddle with to show here, so instead here are some highlights.

The top-ranked projects on on rural highways in Marion County.

The top-ranked Salem project is on Lancaster @ Devonshire:
  • Replace Urban Permissive or Protected/Permissive Left Turns to Protected Only
  • Install No Pedestrian Phase Feature with Flashing Yellow Arrow
A bit down the list is a project for Mission and Hawthorne, where a driver struck and killed Connor Jordan three years ago as he was in a crosswalk:
  • Improve Signal Hardware: Lenses, Reflectorized Back plates, Size, and Number
  • Install Pedestrian Countdown Timer(s)
Down a couple more at Market and Lancaster:
  • Install Urban Green Bike Lanes at Conflict Points (!!!)
There are, in fact, several clusters of "urban green bike lanes" proposed:
  1. Market & Lancaster
  2. Fairview & 12th
  3. D Street & Lancaster
  4. Airport Road & Mission Street
Maybe more interesting is the "Pedestrian and Bicycle Systemic Projects List" (small pdf). Eugene's kinda cleaning up, but there is some good news for Salem:

If you click on it you'll see median islands, crosswalks, and flashing beacons for Marion and Center Streets; same plus buffered bike lanes for Commercial Street (that's the Commercial-Vista Corridor Study recommendations); and a cycle track on 25th Street.

That's some meat!

Anyway there may be more to say later. Things are in the "scoping" and further assessment phase (the red line is a preliminary cut) and projects will drop off the list. So if nothing else it will be interesting to see the final cut.

Update, August 25th 

This is very interesting! On the 20th, the FHWA released a myth-buster: "Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions" (html here, pdf here).

In the context of GHG reduction, Chair Clark had said "bike and pedestrian projects are important...however funding for these projects is not currently available...[DLCD] doesn't appear to understand that reduction targets cannot be met with the current funding available." (This is reproduced across the two clips above.)

The FHWA document addresses a good bit of this!

It identifies some common "Funding Misconceptions":
  1. The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is the only Federal funding source for pedestrian and bicycle projects.
  2. Federal transportation funds cannot be used to enhance the local roadway network.
  3. Separated bike lanes cannot be built with Federal funds
  4. Federal funds can't be used for road diets.
  5. Nonmotorized projects cannot compete effectively for CMAQ funding
It identifies some "Design Misconceptions":
  1. The only design standard that can be used on Federal-aid highway projects is the AASHTO A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (Green Book).
  2. Lane widths cannot drop below 11' on the NHS [National Highway System] and 9' when Federal funds are used on local roads.
  3. Curb extensions, trees, and roundabouts cannot be used on the NHS.
  4. Speed limits must be set using the 85th percentile methodology.
And finally an "Environmental Review Misconception":
  1. Bicycle and pedestrian projects must be within the existing Right of Way (ROW) to be eligible for a Categorical Exclusion.
So, abbreviated like these, it's too much inside baseball, and we'll probably come back to them another time. The important part is what Streetsblog pointed out:
State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that"....This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.
There is more funding out there, but MWACT, the SKATS Policy Committee, the Cities of Salem and Keizer, and other entities have to be willing to use it and to reallocate the proportion of funds devoted to supporting drive-alone trips.


Anonymous said...

Information about the ARTS program within ODOT Region 2 can be found here:

On the webpage are the lists of projects and locations that ODOT and local governments are evaluating. Note that these 150% project lists were created to scope the individual projects in more detail (i.e. fine-tune the project design needs and costs) before decisions are made on which ones can be funded.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks! That made for a pleasant noon hour. Updated with additional comments on the 150% lists. There's some good stuff there.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated more with bit from FHWA myth-buster: "Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions"