Monday, February 27, 2017

In the Neighborhoods: SESNA and Grant on Redevelopment and Reuse

A couple of items to note in the neighborhood associations this week.


SESNA meets Tuesday the 28th and on the agenda is an update on a "Proposed Sale of Property at 25th & Mission Streets."

25th and Mission Area by the Post Office and Airport
You might recall this from a couple years back:
Jim Green gave an overview of his family’s vacant property on Mission Street, which was formerly an auto dealership. A 4.5-acre portion of the property has been sold to Power Mission, a car dealership, leaving 17.5 acres for sale. He provided a brief history of the property and discussed his family’s efforts to redevelop it into a variety of uses, including a Trader Joes, REI and Panera Bread. Jim said Salem’s demographics as well as difficult site access have made the property unattractive to those and other desirable users. He added that his family has turned down other uses such as a McDonald’s Restaurant and Subway Restaurant and is instead looking to create a destination at the property that enhances the city. His family has met with City and Airport officials about possible uses, including a hotel. Jim also told meeting participants that he and the City would like to see a new road be built that connects Airport Road SE and 25th Street SE; the project is proposed to be added to the City’s Transportation System Plan.
Most of those ideas didn't come to fruition (though the street between Airport Road and 25th is now in the Transportation System Plan as a future project), and it will be interesting to learn more about this iteration.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

At the MPO: 2018 - 2023 Area Project List Nearly Ready for Public Release

On Tuesday the 28th, the Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets at noon, and there are several things to note. (Agenda and packet here.)

Release the TIP!

The biggest item is the draft 2018-2023 Transportation Improvement Program.

The main action will be a "Motion to direct staff to release the draft SKATS FY 2018-2023 TIP for public review and comment."

I think this will lead to an Open House, a formal comment period, and a Public Hearing.

What is a TIP?

The Executive Summary says:
The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for federal fiscal year (FY) 2018-2023 is the region’s short range capital improvements program for roads, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, transit, and other transportation elements in the Salem-Keizer-Turner urbanized includes lists of transportation projects proposed for FY 2018 through 2023. The TIP is developed through a cooperative planning process by the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS), this area’s federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

As part of the planning process for the development of the TIP, the financial plan covers proposed transportation investments. The financial plan demonstrates which projects can be implemented (annually) using current revenues and funding sources...

This document describes how more than $160 million will be invested to support our transportation system over the next four years. SKATS has discretion over programming nearly $40 million in federal funds for FY 2018-2021...
Federal requirements strongly shape the process, and there may not be much flexibility in it, but the comment period is positioned at the very end of a process that started in the spring of 2016.

The real opportunity for the public to shape or influence the TIP comes earlier in the process, mostly in 2016. It is an interesting exercise to consider what level of public comment - how much outrage really - it would take to alter substantially a project, to delete one, or to add one at this near end-stage to the TIP. (New projects would probably instead be added as amendments after this TIP is adopted. This happens routinely, it should be noted.)

Since the TIP is a compilation - the MPO doesn't originate projects - of projects mostly from cities, counties, and the state, at this point in the process this seems like an opportunity mainly for rubber-stamping rather than an opportunity to influence. Still, the aggregate of comment might help shape the next round of projects, as well as the on-going amendment process as new projects are added. They'll also begin working on the next one in not too long, and that's something to keep in mind.

Projects in the TIP

If in your peripheral vision you've noticed the City 's Capital Improvements Plan, the State's All Roads Transportation Safety program, the State's "Enhance" and "Fix-it" programs, as well as the "STBGP-U and TA-U funds" vetting here at the MPO, you'll be aware of many of the projects.

Detail from Figure 4, map of projects (legend enlarged)
But whether you've followed any of the processes or not, it's nice to see them all collated and mapped.

Friday, February 24, 2017

City Council, February 27th - Delay at Boise, Library Seismic Deferred

As an expression of our current Zeitgeist, the splitting of a Civic Center bond into multiple pieces looks apt. This Monday Council meets and looks to ratify the decision for a "divide and conquer" approach. They'll put at least two bonds on the ballot separately.
1) Adopt Resolution No. 2017-18 calling for a measure election to be held on May 16, 2017, in the amount of $61.8 million, to finance the development of a new public safety facility

2) Adopt Resolution No. 2017-19 calling for a measure election to be held on November 7, 2017, in the amount of $15.3 million to finance seismic and building safety improvements to the Library
the Library is
an effective symbol
The charitable reading of maximum sincerity is that Council really believes the city will rally behind the Library in November, even in a likely face-off with (or against) a Public Schools bond.

At least from here, the more likely reading is that peeling off the Library work greatly reduces its prospects, and allows the City to bump up the scope and cost of the Police Facility.

At the level of symbol, it is a "Know-Nothing" statement for more Law and Order at the expense of Knowledge. Like it or not, it says something about our priorities.

Bundling and mutually leveraging the needs seemed like the best chance for a right-sized Police Station and for desperately needed seismic work on the Library and City Hall. It also acknowledged trade-offs.

Now we'll likely see a "Yes, but" campaign like Cherriots faced in the fall of 2015: "Oh, we support the Library, but this is the wrong time/cost/tax..."

You might disagree, but it's hard to be hopeful about chances now on seismic work for City Hall and the Library. We will have funded and built years 20-40 of a future Police Station, which will be vacant for the first 20 years, at the expense of a seismic retrofit for the Library and City hall, useful right now. Building extra empty space for future growth to deny other urgent needs is utterly baffling. [Revised for clarity]

Other Things

Past the Library and Police Station, there are several of smaller things of interest.

Delay at Boise

Developers on the Marquis Nursing Home are filing a formal delay on the project.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Italianate Smith-Ohmart House of 1870 up for Historic Design Review

Here's a pleasant diversion!

One of the most important historic houses in Salem had been for sale for while, and it looks like it might have recently sold. The City just posted a hearing notice for a "Major Historic Design Review."

The Italianate Smith-Ohmart House, circa 1870
Via SHINE on 1870
Based on a quick reading of the Notice, the details of the current proposed remodel for the Smith-Ohmart house of 1870 don't look to disturb the "big picture" of a remodel that already significantly impacted and altered the original Italianate home. So to say the proposal is worth attention is not to say that it should be opposed.

It is instead to say that it is an occasion to notice an underappreciated historic home in Salem.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Commercial Real Estate Forum's Buried Lede: The Invisible Hand is Broken

The big "Commercial Real Estate Economic Forum" was held last week, and overall it seems like there are fewer things to say than last year (see part 1, part 2). Much of what was true then remains true this year.

And yet the cheery optimism in the newspaper's report might be a little problematic. Who benefits from the "lift"? The benefits from "continued growth" do not seem to be distributed quite the right way!

In fact, the real story might be rather different. The real story might be that in the face of strong demand, tight supply, and rising rents and sales numbers across multiple sectors, developers are not responding very quickly with new supply.

The story is not so much "economy offers a lift," but instead is "supply and demand are stuck in an imbalance and are not adjusting to find the new equilibrium."

The invisible hand may not just be invisible, it's totally absent or broken!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Legislative Update - Week 4

I don't know there's a whole lot to say yet on the Legislature. Here's a list of bills that have seemed interesting or relevant, along with a few more notes and events.

The design, circa 1936
(State Capitol 75th anniversary site)
  • SB 2 - Sen. Courtney's bill on enhanced penalties for cel phone use and distracted driving.
  • SB 35 - On raising the DMV reporting threshold for crash damage, from $1,500 to $3,000. (Many bikes are worth less than $1,500, and this would make it harder to enter crashes into the system for reporting and insurance purposes. This is an autoist bias.)
  • SB 38 - Looks like a generic funding bill for ODOT. The current project list in it is old and will almost certainly be replaced. Maybe this will be the "transportation package" eventually.
  • SB 426 - Repeals low-carbon fuel standard 
  • SB 493 - Creates new crime, "assault in the fourth degree" on a vulnerable road user.
  • SB 556 - Creates offense of driving with dog in driver's lap. 
  • SB 557 and HB 2135 - New statewide greenhouse gas emissions goals
  • SB 5530 - an ODOT budget
  • HB 2102 - Looks like it relaxes some of the penalties for DUI convictions
  • HB 2288 - Funding for ConnectOregon
  • HB 2355 - On collecting data on traffic stops and racial profiling.
  • HB 2440 - An attempt to remove HOV lanes on I-5
  • HB 2532 - A proposal for a quantitative scoring system for the STIP, including a requirement for "least-cost planning" (this one looks a little interesting)
  • HB 2667 - A proposal for a Vision Zero Task Force. BikePortland covered the first committee hearing on it. Unsurprisingly ODOT is opposed, and prefers their weak "safety" plan.
  • HB 2682 - A proposal to make it easier for cities to set speed zones and remove the need for ODOT approval (Portland is driving this and BikePortland has an extensive discussion)
The paper notes there's an informational hearing and possible work session on carbon today, Monday the 20th (no bills are on the agenda):
Learn about proposals to reduce carbon emissions in Oregon at a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and the House Committee on Energy and Environment.

The committees will hear invited testimony about the impacts of a cap-and-trade program and a clean air tax or fee. They’ll also get a recap of the latest Oregon Climate Assessment Report, which shows that Oregon is not reducing its greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet its goals.

3 p.m. Monday in Hearing Room D. [report link added]
It's never too late or too early to start contacting your Legislators about supporting rational transportation for greenhouse gas reduction, for safety, and for livability. As the session continues, a more specific ask and slate of bills to support may emerge, as well as ways to frame messaging for Rs and Ds.

Both the Vision Zero and Local Speed Zone Setting bills already seem to have some momentum behind them, so they might deserve specific mention.

Also, March 6th is a Lobby Day for Safe Routes to School efforts. More detail on that later - it's a day before the bikeway Open House on March 7th!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Executive Order 9066 Signed 75 Years Ago Today

Last Fall Willamette tweeted out a picture of the prettiest cherry tree in town. Even on an overcast day it was resplendent.

In the Fall - via WU Twitter

In the Spring (2013) - soon again
But it is not merely beautiful or a symbol of transience. It is also cautionary.

It is part of a memorial to those Japanese-American students forced to leave Willamette in 1942 and sent to internment camps.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

City Council, February 21st - More Police Station

Council meets on Monday Tuesday! for a combo Work Session and Special Meeting on the planning for a new Police Station.

Others will have plenty to say about the prospective bond proposals themselves.

A Pulitzer for a piece on the Cascadia Quake
(via Twitter)
Let's look instead at some of the support materials. More than anything, the analytical lens still seems too small. The overwhelming scope of catastrophe in the big earthquake, as well as the scope of all the other needs we need to consider and fund, all still seem elusive.

What has the City done about earthquake?
One of the support documents is a set of answers to questions Council posed to Staff on February 6th and 13th.

The one on earthquake is very interesting:

Friday, February 17, 2017

In the Neighborhoods next Week: West Salem and Downtown

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets on Monday, and they have several items of interest on the agenda.

A little worrisome is a potential 2017 goal:
  • The pedestrian / bicycle path over Wallace road NW as a way to help traffic flow along Wallace Road
A bridge over Wallace Road sounds great, right, so why is it worrisome?

Wallace at Edgewater
Because of a new location and the way it is framed up as "a way to help traffic flow."

The project, proposed as an alternative to the Second Street undercrossing, may be an answer to the question, "how can we get people on bike and on foot out of the way?" and not an answer to the question, "what do people on foot and on bike need in order to bike and walk more?" The proposal looks to be a pedestrian displacement system more than anything else. [clarification added]

In the notes to the previous meeting they said
[A neighbor] is working on the design for a bicycle/pedestrian bridge beside Highway 22 over Wallace Road NW at the Edgewater intersection. The bridge would provide a connection between the existing bike/pedestrian path from the Marion and Center Street bridges to the path along the south side of Edgewater Street. The Land Use Committee will meet with ODOT representative Sheila Lyons and Ward 1 City Councilor Kara Kaser February 16 and 17 to discuss ways to move this project forward.
The problems here:
  1. The connection across Wallace Road should link to the Union Street Railroad Bridge primarily, and not to the Center Street Bridge.
  2. The Path along OR-22, tucked in behind the buildings along Edgewater, is isolated and doesn't offer direct connections to any businesses. It's a nice line on a map, but it's not as useful as it could be. A route along Second Street offers much better visibility and connectivity.
  3. Facilities for people on foot and on bike should not be developed out of what is most helpful for travelers in cars; they should instead develop out of the needs of people on foot and on bike.
  4. (A footbridge in this location would probably also conflict with the SRC's path, including the OR-22/Marine Drive connection. But that's a different matter.)
The idea's genesis here seems more than a little autoist and therefore unhelpful.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Trio of Classical Revival Houses and the Pineconian Order

A while back on a trip to Eugene, there was a magnificent discovery: A terrific guide knew of a settlement-era house that pre-dated Statehood and was still on its original site.

You might recognize the type:

Phillips House of 1853 - Vacant since 2002 and in danger

Conser House of 1854, in Jefferson, now used as Library
 - via Library of Congress

Masterson House of 1857, in Eugene
Updated and somewhat remodeled
More in Lane County Historian, February 1959
The Masterson House of 1857 has been remodeled some, but the basic form of the original Classical Revival house is visible and intact. It's hardly even a slant-rhyme compared to those other houses - it's a complete rhyme.

Friday, February 10, 2017

City Council, February 13th - Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan

Council meets on Monday, and while it may not seem like a very important thing, a routine and dull thing in fact, the update to our Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan could actually be a powerful thing, and it seems like it is currently neglected.

Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan
The City will engage University of Oregon to update its Salem Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. It's updated every five years, and the current one, from 2012, is due. When it came out last time, it seemed like it did not give sufficient attention to earthquake preparedness, and dwelled more on flood. Flood of course is more frequent and predictable, but the big earthquake will be more catastrophic. Our risk-assessment does not seem to have captured this adequately.

Focusing more on earthquake and what institutional and municipal investments we should be making in advance of "the big one," as distinct from small-scale privatized and personal "duck and cover" efforts, seems like it should be much more important that it currently is. Maybe this iteration of the plan can highlight this.

Traffic Things

There are several traffic items also to note. 

Council will apply to renew a $9,000 grant to perform crosswalk education and enforcement activities.
This grant covers $73.26 per hour for overtime enforcement for Pedestrian Safety enforcement and other traffic safety violations. The Salem Police Department has been awarded this grant in years past allowing for extra enforcement related to pedestrian safety enforcement.
It's nice the funding is available, but it's increasingly clear that the way this is framed up, it is an amenity, an extra, something outside the core mission of public safety. There's probably nothing to be done at the moment, but it is a sign of our priorities.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

1880s Image Shows Ruralish Neighborhood at 14th and Marion

It's Black History Month, and yesterday the Oregon Encyclopedia tweeted out a link to a locally relevant article, "Salem's Colored School and Little Central."

via Twitter
The story is little known and it's not possible at this point to retell it often enough.

So check it out!

(And while you're at it, consider more generally reading about post-Civil War Reconstruction and its shameful counterpoint and sequel in Redemption. Some historians and social critics have argued persuasively that we are entering a second phase of "Redemption," a reaction to the Civil Rights and Obama eras, and it will take hard work to baffle it.)

Supporting the OE article are some photos.

And the caption to one of them - which doesn't actually seem to have very much to do at all with supporting any point in the article! - solves a mystery in the Salem Library Historic Photos collection.

This is from East School looking east down Marion St
14th Street is the first intersection
(Oregon Historical Society, 0170G051)
A different print of this same photo is in the Salem collection and it has been identified as "View down 12th Street in Salem, Oregon, from roof of old East School, 1886." This description was very difficult to square with the image, as there is no street in the photo that really looks like 12th, but the OHS caption identifying it as looking down Marion Street makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Downtown Board Looks at Replacing Planters on Ferry at Liberty

The Downtown Advisory Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 9th, and they'll be talking about the lousy crosswalk between the Conference Center and the Liberty Parkade as well as ways to increase usage of the parking garages.
Proposed Screens to replace Concrete Planters
Recognizing that the connection from the Conference Center to the core of downtown is not very inviting and requires crossing a zoomy state highway, DAB proposes to fund replacing a cluster of big concrete planters. These partially block the sidewalk and guard against too speedy turns that depart from the roadway. DAB proposes to replace them with more decorative metal railings consistent in style with our wayfinding and historical signage.

Long Crosswalk with dual turn lanes on OR-22

Monday, February 6, 2017

DAS Publishes Three North Campus Proposals - Let's Look at the Latest

Breitenbush Hall, January 2017
Recently, DAS published the three proposals that were rejected for purchasing the North Campus of the State Hospital. (The project website has several new bits of information!)
This is welcome and overdue. Now as we debate whether DAS was right to reject the proposals, at least we can have some real facts at hand about the proposals. (See for example the just published Salem Weekly story, "North Campus Historic Buildings Will Come Down.")

The only proposal that has seemed worth continuing to discuss, though, was the Chusal one. DAS can make a reasonable case that the first was premature, and the bare land proposal can still be in play or further refined after the demolition is completed. You might disagree, but from here these don't seem worth dwelling on at the moment.

Demolition plan for comparison
But what about the Chusal proposal, which would have retained all four of the buildings currently being demolished? That sounds like a great thing, right. On the surface there is good reason to give it a very sympathetic reading. It reused buildings and saved trees!

Chusal Concept Site Plan
(Click to enlarge)
So let's consider the site plan. (Comments keyed to numbered site plan.)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

City Council, February 6th - Police Station Work Session

Do you remember that spreadsheet funding tool that let citizens assemble different funding packages for the Salem River Crossing?

$2.00 toll, $1/$1000 property tax, and $0.10 gas tax = not enough
from an N3B pass at the funding calculator
It was ugly, but it let folks walk through difference scenarios and see what a range of possible realistic outcomes might be.

On Monday, Council will have a work session to revisit the prospect of a new Police Station, and Staff have gone down a decidedly constrained path. There are two choices on the menu right now:
  1. If Council chooses to refer only a police facility question, the recommendation is a 127,000 sq. ft. building for a $69.1 million bond measure.
  2. If Council determines that seismic upgrades should be included with a police facility question, the recommendation is to include the library (at $15.3 million) and reduce the police facility to 115,000 square feet (at $63.9 million) for a $79.2 million bond measure.
This is ridiculous.

The ostensible "thrifty, low-cost" option for a $69.1 million bond measure is still a giant, over-sized "Police Palace."

The more expensive option for a $79.2 million bond measure includes seismic work on the Library - but crucially appears to omit any seismic work on City Hall itself. And while it retreats a bit on size, going for the L instead of XL, it's still nowhere near the 75,000 square foot facility that was originally approved.

Council should instead get a menu of choices that looks more like this:

Friday, February 3, 2017

Legislative Climate Change Report Highlights Reversal of Progress, Calls for Action

Ice loss on Mt. Hood 1984 - 2013
The draft of the 2017 Oregon Global Warming Commission Biennial Report to the Legislature is making the rounds, and it's not pretty.

Exec Summary: Rising Transportation Emissions
From the very top of the Executive Summary:
  • Rising transportation emissions are driving increases in statewide emissions
  • Oregon will not meet its 2020 emission reduction goal
  • [we need] a transportation funding package to prioritize policies and programs that will make material differences in the GHG emissions from transportation
And further in, on a "perilous reversal" of progress:
Transportation Emissions: Reliable 2015 data on transportation GHG emissions – Oregon’s largest emissions sector; see pp. 17-18 of this report – will allow 2017’s legislators to rationally weigh choices to substantially reduce those emissions alongside other transportation policies that provide economic stimulation and congestion relief (of course many clean transportation choices also contribute materially to these other important policy outcomes). The 2015 numbers suggest this debate is timely if not overdue, as the increasing transportation emissions describe a perilous reversal of the progress we’ve made over the last 15 years. This disturbing trend may be resulting from the compounded effects of (1) a 2013-2015 upturn in Vehicle Miles Traveled by Oregon drivers, and (2) a flattening out, since early 2015, of vehicle fuel efficiency (MPG) gains nationally.

As legislators gather for their 2017 session and likely transportation legislation including a gas tax increase, their choices should be guided by both economic and environmental outcomes including these disturbing transportation emissions trends, and by the findings of the 2013 Sustainable Transportation Strategy ODOT analysis that identifies increased transit service levels, and wider deployment of Electric Vehicles (EV’s) reliant on a clean electrical grid as two critical strategies to contain those emissions.
It's disappointing, however, not to see more on walking, biking, and transportation demand management in VMT reduction. Making it easy for people to drive less or not at all!

In any event, it's never too late to start contacting your Legislators about supporting rational transportation for greenhouse gases, for safety, and for livability. (As the session continues, a more specific ask and slate of bills to support may emerge, as well as ways to frame messaging for Rs and Ds.)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Go Gas Free: It's a Patriotic Thing

Does it bother you that our new Secretary of State is an Oil and Gas Executive? Worried about that 19% of Rosneft? Wonder about what will happen if an SEC rule requiring oil and gas companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments is canned?

In addition to protesting and writing letters and calling electeds, if you're not doing it already, it might be time to consider in a more serious way making a commitment to not-driving on a regular basis.

The car's a useful transportation tool, but we overuse it, and the more we are dependent on fossil fuel dollars, the more chicanery there will be.

The winter's not a very good time to try to start walking, biking, and busing more, alas. But here we are. Nothing about this moment is very good timing. So think globally, act locally. You know. It won't be realistic to shift all your trips, but maybe you can do one a week - think something like Fuel Free Fridays.

Something to help? Mark your calendars for March 7th.

To support Safe Routes to Schools funding and programming at the Legislature this year, the entity-formerly-known-as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, now the Street Trust, in coalition as the For Every Kid Coaltion, have been holding a series of Town Halls around the state.

In March, it will be Salem's turn.

Bolted on to that Town Hall will be an Open House for the Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard. Word is there will be door prizes in addition to several speakers!

So Save the Date! Tuesday, March 7th:
  • 3/7 - For Every Kid Town Hall @ Salem (4:30-6pm)
  • 3/7 - Salem Neighborhood Bikeways Open House (6-7:30pm)
The Town Hall will be in Broadway Commons, 1300 Broadway St NE #100. RSVP here.

Slipping a Reminder by the Ignition!
You might remember the clinic last fall put on by Salem Environmental Education. This spring hopefully they will put it on again. Just Walk also has lots of walking resources, and in addition to scheduled loop walks, it's good to consider walking to work or to the grocery store.

Our incipient klepto-authoritarian moment isn't just going to go away, and it's going to take deeper, more difficult action to dislodge it.

So take a moment and give some real thought to driving less and to walking, biking, busing more, and adding that as part of your advocacy and patriotism.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Oregon Transportation Commission to Discuss ODOT Management Audit Thursday

The Oregon Transportation Commission has scheduled a special meeting for tomorrow, Thursday the 2nd. They'll be discussing the management "audit" of ODOT.

The Portland Tribune had to make a public records request for it, but at least for a little while a slightly redacted version is now posted to the OTC website. So if you want to read it, you should download it right now! It will probably disappear very shortly.

Mostly the internal assessment of ODOT management is not very interesting for our purposes.

The moments where they discuss strategy and vision is a little interesting, though, and point to ways that it has seemed like so much of project selection, notwithstanding all the scoring and prioritization exercises at one level or another, was truly ad hoc and driven by politics more than a real commitment to a strategy:

Capital Strategy (p22)
ODOT sets an overall strategy for capital allocation and then solicits “Enhance” and “Fix It” projects to fit into those buckets, creating an ‘optimal’ portfolio. In the most recent budget, this balance was set at 15 percent “Enhance” projects and 85 percent “Fix It” projects. Interviews with stakeholders reveal that ODOT’s process for arriving at that balance is unclear, so ODOT could improve the transparency of how it arrives at its overall capital allocation strategy.
Strategy and the OTC (p51)
While OTC has written long-and short-term strategic plans for state-wide transportation, the strategy has not been effectively internalized. Today, commissioners and ODOT leaders are not aligned around a consistent vision of agency priorities. In interviews, commissioners and ODOT senior management expressed a wide variety of priorities for ODOT. A clear and shared strategy, supported by metrics with a meaningful reporting cadence, could make the commission more effective.
If we are going to commit to "fix it first," to greenhouse gas reductions, to reductions in VMT, to multi-modalism - if we really are going to do all these things, high-level strategy should be driving and better aligned with project selection.

In that light, the section on rubber stamping (p48) was relevant:
However, many of the members of the five-person commission indicated that they are unsure if they have complete information to make informed decisions during meetings. They described meetings as times when ODOT updates them and asks for approval, rather than settings for debate with a fact base on both sides of the decision.
And while the OTC might feel this way "at times," the public also often does! Just look at the messed-up process for the Salem River Crossing, which has always seemed to be driving to a pre-determined conclusion, not something genuinely responsive to criticism and comment, and not something actually consistent with strategy/goals to reduce VMT, emissions, and drive-alone trips.

Focused as it was on "management" the audit seemed to miss one important element: managing change. It seemed to be based on a fundamental notion of how to do business as usual better, not how to adjust business to changing realities. The audit doesn't much touch on the structures - and predicaments - of road funding, like the increasing inadequacy of the gas tax and increasing debt service, or touch on the changing nature of mobility. I guess that would be a substantially different audit or report, and you can't fault a text for not being what it doesn't set out to be. Still, by not addressing these in more detail, it may be more shallow and optimistic than the conditions originating the audit really called for. I expected more forensic discussion of the problematic management of the CRC, the Highway 20 Eddyville mess, and the fiasco around the low-carbon fuel standard numbers at the Legislature, for example. (Maybe these are separately in a redacted/confidential portion, I suppose.)

It will be interesting to see what others have to say about the report.

The OTC meets Thursday, February 2nd, at 10am in the Gail Achterman Conference Room 103, in ODOT HQ, 355 Capitol Street NE.