Thursday, November 19, 2015

City Passes on this Round of Lottery Funding: No ConnectOregon VI Application

The other day you might have seen the post on BikePortland about Portland's suite of proposals for the Non-Highway Enhance and ConnectOregon VI programs.
BikePortland was reporting on them together because ODOT structured the application deadlines at the same time as a way of trying to synchronize and mutually leverage the programs.

Tomorrow is the application deadline for both.

The City of Salem is applying for the crossing safety projects with the Non-Highway Enhance program, but is not applying this cycle for any lottery funding through ConnectOregon VI.

There are a number of factors in this.

One is that the local match has been raised to 30% - a third of the total project cost. By contrast the Non-Highway Enhance program only requires a little over 10%, and that makes it much easier to reach a viable funding plan.

The scoring focus for this round of ConnectOregon also seems to have moved more towards freight, and it may be a move to make bike/ped projects eligible in name, but less so in actuality. You may recall after Eugene won a grant for bikeshare in the last round, bikeshare was explicitly excluded from this round.

From an ODOT memo:
A key OTC decision was to give heavier weight to the three strategic considerations:
(a) Whether a proposed transportation project reduces transportation costs for Oregon businesses or improves access to jobs and sources of labor;
- (b) Whether a proposed transportation project results in an economic benefit to this state;
- (c) Whether a proposed transportation project is a critical link connecting elements of Oregon’s transportation system that will measurably improve utilization and efficiency of the system;
Candidate projects also have to be outside of the road right-of-way, things ineligible for gas tax and highway trust funding, and Salem doesn't have much in the way of "path" projects very far along in planning. At the level of planning strategy, this has not been a focus much for Salem at the moment. And several current projects don't really fit the program:
  • The Kroc Center - Hyacinth path was not successful in the last round of ConnectOregon, and it didn't fare very well in the assessment and scoring for Non-Highway Enhance projects.
  • In West Salem, the Union Street Railroad path extension under Wallace Road has become an extension of Second Street and Marine Drive, and so it would not be outside of the road right-of-way.
  • The proposal for an eastbank path from the Union Street Railroad Bridge to Keizer is merely a "wish" at the moment, and lacks even a basic conceptual plan.
As you look through Bike and Walk Salem, the biking and walking amendments to the Transportation System Plan, there are a number of conceptual paths outside of the right-of-way scattered around town, but most of these remain very conceptual and are too early in planning stages - or, really, nothing meaningful has been planned for them. Like the eastbank path concept, they are little more than wishes and lines on a map.

So it may be that there simply isn't a candidate to advance.

But two possibilities do come to mind, though they may not be very strong ones.

The connection between the Esplanade and Union St is tricky
The east side of the Union Street Bikeway and connection to the 12th Street Esplanade seems like it could have had at least a component outside of the road right-of-way: Making the connection under or over the railroad at the bend in 12th/Union seems like it could have been a candidate for ConnectOregon VI funds. But this is merely a small segment in a larger project that is in the right-of-way.

Bike and Walk detour in yellow
The other possibility seems like the easement road that was used for the detour when River Road was closed. This alternative to River Road might have made for a decent ConnectOregon application.

Neither of these are no-brainers, though. And the dearth of strong candidates for this source of funding seem much less like an instance of missing a deadline than it is the lack of prior planning and commitments to building out the bikeway network. Salem doesn't have a "path strategy" right now, and so it's not surprising that there aren't many candidate projects. Salem is missing out on this round of funding, but there may not be a good way not to miss out. It seems very difficult to envision an obvious, strong, and realistic project that Salem should have advanced this fall. (Do you know of one?) It's hard to fault the City for taking a pass on this particular program at this time.

It is less difficult, however, to fault the City's larger commitment overall to building out the recommendations from Bike and Walk Salem and transitioning to a more balanced transportation system. Until there's a stronger strategic and planning commitment to a complete network, the pipeline of projects for particular funding sources won't be very full.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

This is old news, apparently, but a list of ConnectOregon VI projects is out and dated from mid-December. It shows no relevant projects in or immediately around Salem, so there will be little to say in the future about this round of applications, assessment, and funding.