Monday, September 21, 2015

Eight Walk/Bike/Bus Projects to Battle at MPO for Funding Tuesday

Tomorrow, on Tuesday the 22nd, the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets, and they'll be prioritizing some bike/ped/bus projects to advance for the next round of evaluation.

Last week many of you took a poll on them. And we'll get to that. First, though, here's one analysis and a preferred priority.

In round numbers here's a $10 million project.

All of Region 2 gets to compete over this much funding
Wallace and Glen Creek Widening
ODOT Region 2 will award $9.25 million of "Enhance non-highway funds," mostly for walking, biking, and transit projects. Region 2 includes Lane, Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, Yamhill, Tillamook, Clatsop, Columbia, southern Clackamas and western Washington counties.

For all cities and communities in Lane, Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, Yamhill, Tillamook, Clatsop, Columbia, southern Clackamas and western Washington counties, biking and walking projects are competing over funds equivalent to one Glen Creek and Wallace Road widening.

On the one hand, that apportionment of federal funds still more than a lot of states devote to non-auto projects. On the other hand, it's still very small, and doesn't in a strategic way get us very far on reconfiguring our city life and transportation choices for a much lower-carbon future, for a healthier future, for a more vibrant future.

Institutionally speaking, we're still very much stuck on the primacy of the drive-alone trip and on the centrifugal forces pushing people to live on the edges of the city.

So that's kindof still where we're at.

One Analysis

The County has advanced projects that are sub-optimal in two ways. One is that two of them look like retreads. The County has submitted Brooklake and Hayesville for different funding programs before, and they have not been competitive. (For example, here's a note from 2010 about the old Transportation Enhancements program.) The reasons aren't often made public, but here's one guess. And that's the other reason they seem sub-optimal: They're legacy remediation to 1980s standards.  Those standards from more than a generation ago called for sidewalks and bike lanes, and that's the way new roads are built. That's the baseline, the minimum. A program that is about "enhancement" seems like it's calling for projects that go above and beyond the baseline of 1980s standards.

(A larger question is what is the best way to fund needed projects on unincorporated County land. Equity issues and tax bases make this complicated, and it may be that the Legislature needs to formulate a program for east Portland, east Salem - for places not yet incorporated or only recently incorporated that need a large program of sidewalks and other infrastructure just to bring them to these 1980s standards. That would be a worthy piece in an omnibus "Transportation Package," which Senator Courtney now says won't happen in the short session of 2016, but will have to wait for 2017.)

Since the program is called "Enhance" and not "Remedial Sidewalks 101," I think the County slate is not strong for this particular program and should rank a low priority:
  • 45th Avenue Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (County)
  • Brooklake Road Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (County)
  • Hayesville Drive Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (County)
Another project that is hugely remedial is the proposed Kroc Center path (full saga here). The Kroc Center is a money pit. It was poorly sited, and is going to take a lot of investment to create even minimal connectivity. It's good money after bad. A benevolent dictator would sell the Kroc Center and devote the proceeds to a large investment in our local Boys and Girls Clubs, which are actually located in neighborhoods and can be reached on foot and on bike. The proposed path is on the inside of Hyacinth and the Parkway, and doesn't actually solve the problem of connectivity across the Parkway. So the Kroc Center path also should rank low.
  • Claggett Creek Path from Hyacinth to Kroc Center (Salem)
Replacement buses for Cherriots doesn't seem much like "enhancement" at all, so that's also low. It's unfair to Cherriots and unfair those who walk and bike that replacement buses has to compete with bike boulevards. The buses are also fixed capacity, and it's not clear that evaluated on a per-user cost, they would rank very highly. This also doesn't seem like a good match for this particular program.
  • Two Replacement Commuter Buses (Cherriots)
And lookie here. We have three projects left.  The Eastbank Trail planning might be a more Parks and Rec grant kind of project, though it would be tremendous to get, so even that's not in the first rank of the other two. A trail project in that location might also be better integrated into a traffic, land use, and redevelopment plan for that area, something more holistic. I'd like to see it considered in the total context of redevelopment, and the forthcoming State Street Study might be a better model for that kind of thing.
  • Planning for Eastbank Trail (Salem)
So we're left with two.
  • Eastern portion of Union Street Bikeway (Salem)
  • Five Crossing Safety Projects, including two key Winter-Maple Bikeway crossings (Salem)
You might say that this reflects a "City of Salem" bias on the blog, and you would probably also be right about that. But those projects also seem like the strongest candidates for projects that actually enhance, that go above-and-beyond our current standards that are rooted in specifications from a generation ago. That reading of "enhance" is colloquial, of course. But when you look at the actual criteria, I think these projects also score highly: They "extend, support, or enhance an existing or planned STIP project" - and certainly the Union St. RR Bridge itself was a STIP project, and the Winter-Maple bikeway also is a planned project. They also meet the "modal attributes" of "1) connectivity and system benefits, 2) safety and public health, and 3) accessibility and mobility." The Union St. Bikeway, which will connect with the 12th St Esplanade, especially scores highly on "addressing a system deficiency" with "infill a missing link in system." And on summer days, use of the Union St. RR Bridge has measured well over 1000 people on it, sometimes several 1000s. So the per-user cost of extending that corridor ranks quite low, and the return on investment correspondingly high.

The 1988 plan shows projects we're still working on
Anyway, you go down the scoring rubric, and I think the Union St project remains strong; and with the list of criteria in hand, I'm not sure any of the other projects force a reassessment to alter rankings.

As for a third project, probably one of the County ones should slot in, but I don't know enough about local conditions to have a strong opinion which one actually should get the nod. The poll supports 45th Avenue, which offers connectivity with Chemeketa Community College and by a meander somewhat connects with all the work on Brown Road. It looks like it offers serious north-south connectivity as an alternative to Lancaster Drive. It's probably the strongest project.

The Preferred Priorities:
  1. Eastern portion of Union Street Bikeway (Salem)
  2. Five Crossing Safety Projects, including two key Winter-Maple Bikeway crossings (Salem)
  3. (The strongest of the County sidewalks and bike lanes projects - probably the 45th Ave project)
And what did they survey say? As of last night, with 28 responses (for comparison, the City's most recent Portland Road survey had 89 responses):
  1. Eastern portion of Union Street Bikeway (on 86% of ballots)
  2. Planning for Eastbank Trail (68%)
  3. Five Crossing Safety Projects (64%)
  4. 45th Avenue Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (25%)
  5. Two Replacement Commuter Buses (21%)
  6. Claggett Creek Path (14%)
  7. Brooklake Road Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (7%)
  8. Hayesville Drive Sidewalks and Bike Lanes (7%)
What do you think? Is the analysis here or the voting meaningfully wrong in one way or another? None of these are terrible projects in and of themselves, so it seems like there's more than a little bit of room for reasonable people to disagree.

(Previous notes on this round of Enhance funding here. The next step will be to advance the priority list to our Area Commission on Transportation, MWACT. They look to evaluate and deliberate on October 1st. More to come!)

Other Stuff

In the July minutes, there were some interesting additional details on the proposed Second Street crossing under Wallace Road:
The city will not commit to a project that will flood and be unusable on a regular basis. The project consultants have assumed that pumping will be necessary; however, a great deal of work needs to be done prior to a final approval for the undercrossing. Soils and hazardous materials have to be looked at among other things such as elevations. At this point, the drawing is based on an example of an undercrossing much like the one in Wilsonville. The Wilsonville undercrossing is both open and elevated.
It also looks like there will be $1 million more in Federal funding for this year:
At the end of July, Congress passed , and the President signed, a three-month extension of the current surface transportation act (MAP-21) extending its authorization until October 29, 2015, which is beyond the end of federal fiscal year 2015. The extension authorizes the same funding amount and program apportionment for federal fiscal year 2015 as was in 2014. As a result, the SKATS MPO will have about $1 million more in FY 2015 federal funds than was conservatively programmed for FY 2015 in the SKATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
Presumably there will be discussion and the Committee will then direct Staff where to apply the funds.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
Finally, the discredited Texas Transportation Institute report will again be presented. See notes to the Technical Advisory Committee for more criticism and further links on that.

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

Update, September 26th

Here are the rankings (from the MWACT agenda)

Rankings from the Sept 22nd meeting
Buses for Cherriots was the leader followed by the Salem intersection and bikeway projects and the Hayesville, rather than 45th Ave, project. It will be interesting to learn more about the Cherriots ranking, but the three clustered for "second" seem solid!

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