Wednesday, March 16, 2016

OTC to Allocate nearly $200 Million Windfall - But a Missed Opportunity?

It's hard to track the OTC and other state-level things on a consistent basis, so mostly we leave that to others. The MPO is the largest unit it has been practical to follow consistently - more on them later in the week! So this is an abbreviated and incomplete note.

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets tomorrow, Thursday the 17th, and there's quite a quiet slush fund in play.

ODOT cover letter to OTC about an extra $200 million
Somehow this doesn't look quite balanced.
It seems like the priorities and proportions ought to be vetted more in public. The BTA's public advocate doesn't seem to have heard much about it.

Especially in light of the needs identified in the draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the Enhance Non-Highway allocation seems mean and cheap!

Probably there should be more biking and walking things, and more seismic things as well. Some of the other buckets seem like candidates for reduction. Some of the buckets have federal mandates, but others have more state-level discretion.

Like how about Safe Routes to School funding? It's slated for a puny $1.5 million between 2019 and 2021.

No more for SR2S in the $200 million windfall!
You might also recall our MPO Chair saying "current local plans would accomplish the [greenhouse gas] targets if there was money to fund the projects included, [but] unfunded, in those plans."

From the May, 2015 minutes of SKATS-PC
Well, here's a pot of money that could go to greenhouse gas reduction!

The point is, we make very deliberate policy and funding choices not to support greenhouse gas reduction and sustainable transportation.

I'm sure the details on this windfall are more complicated - things are always more complicated - but in outline this doesn't look like an innovative approach to allocating a bonus.

Instead it's business as usual with late 20th century patterns of spending and road expansion.

You might also recall David Bragdon's critique of ODOT from the fall:
A familiar claim is, “Oregon has a transportation finance problem.” But it’s actually impossible to tell, because the system is so opaque. Oregon may or may not have a transportation finance problem. What Oregon really has is a transportation governance and management problem. It must fix its governance and management problem before it can fix its finance problem – if it even has one....
Opacity indeed. QED.


Anonymous said...

In this morning's BikePortland story on this, they link to a January letter from the BTA asking for a different set of priorities...

story -

letter -

Anonymous said...

I think, but would need to confirm, that the Safe Routes to School entry is not for construction projects (thus the "education" at the end). One of the eligible project types for Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds is Safe Routes to School projects.

Also recall that to be eligible for Safe Routes to School funding, the jurisdiction and school district need to prepare a plan for each school. That is a limiting factor in the Salem-Keizer area.


Anonymous said...

Transportation for America claims the funds are more flexible than ODOT implied!