Monday, October 23, 2017

At the MPO: Safe Routes to School Funding, STIP, Greenhouse Gases

Our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 24th, and they will discuss several items of interest.

Biking and walking to school coverage, 2013
Brown Road at top without sidewalks
One is a resolution calling for the State to increase total funding for Safe Routes to School Education funding. HB 2017, you may recall, boosted Safe Routes infrastructure funding, but it did not address staffing and programming. The programming side funds Action Plans, which are necessary in order to write applications for infrastructure projects in the first place. Then to use the new sidewalks and bike lanes most effectively, kids need safety education and adults might need to organize walking school buses or bike trains.  The staffing piece for a local coordinator helps to fund all this. ODOT is already recommending an increase, and SKATS proposes to support it.

Resolution to Support more Safe Routes funding
2021-2024 STIP - The Balance Between Fix-it and Enhance

The context for this is discussion about the shape of the 2021-2024 statewide transportation funding plan.

ODOT's Current Proposal for funding

And basically the same thing in a pie chart
You can see the proposal for SR2S education going from $500,000 to $1M per year. So, again, the resolution at SKATS calls for supporting ODOT's current proposal.

(Note also the elimination of "bus replacements" in the table and chart. I assume this is because HB 2017 included a separate transit funding component, so even though the column subtotal declines from $60M to $51M, it is not actually a cut in funding for walk/bike/bus. At least that's how I read it.)

What is being debated is summarized in these three scenarios:

Note the brown and blue bars
We have landed on two basic buckets of funding, one for maintenance, the other for expansion. HB 2017 dictated specific amounts for "fix-it" and "enhance," so the two shades of grey bar are constant in each scenario. The total Federal piece of blue+brown is also constant. But the proportion of blue:brown varies, the way it's divided, with more brown for "enhance" in Scenario 1, and zero brown in Scenario 3. ODOT is recommending the middle one, Scenario 2.
ODOT developed a scenario that would provide the same amount of federal highway funding for Fix-It programs as the Commission allocated in the 2018-2021 STIP, leaving a small amount for a discretionary Enhance Highway program.
Scenario 2 provides a little more for "Fix-it" than Scenario 1 would have obtained. About this ODOT explains:
Under Scenario 1, more money would go into widening and improving roads than maintaining the roads we already have. This means that ODOT will be able to pave and repair fewer miles of road and fix fewer bridges, but will be able to do more to address congestion. Under Scenarios 2 and 3, more money goes into maintaining roads, but that means less money to address congestion issues. Funding allocations for non-highway, safety, and local programs are the same for each scenario because they are set by law and other agreements.
(That's from an online "Open House" ODOT just published, in section 3 "Scenarios." I couldn't generate a separate url for that section, however. Section 2 also has a survey, where you can say "fix it first" and "non-highway programs" for walk/bike/bus are important! Update - See comments below on why Scenario 3 should be preferred.)

Applications for Additional 2018-2021 Funding

You may recall that the an additional $5M has become available for the 2018-2021 cycle. The City of Salem submitted three projects, and our neighbors have submitted five others.
  • Brown Road NE Sidewalk and Bike Lanes ‐ Additional funds to complete project due to unanticipated costs. Construction in 2019.
  • McGilchrist Complete Street Project Right-of-Way – As a supplement to a previously selected project which provided funds to acquire right-of-way on McGilchrist, provide funds to acquire right-of-way for the 22nd Street realignment portion. ROW acquisition in 2018.
  • Orchard Heights Road NW Pedestrian Improvements and Pavement Preservation – Sidewalk infill on south side of Orchard Heights, pedestrian median at park, and repaving. Construction in 2021. Turner
  • Connecticut Avenue: Macleay to Rickey west side Bike/Ped – Complete the urban bicycle and pedestrian facilities on Connecticut. Construction in 2021. (County)
  • Center Street: Lancaster Drive to 45th Place NE Upgrade – Interim 3‐lane upgrade on Center Street with bike/pedestrian facilities on the north side only. Construction in 2021. (County)
  • Turner Road Downtown Urban Upgrade – Provide urban amenities including sidewalk and bike lanes on the west side of Turner Road/3rd Street near Chicago Street. Construction in 2020. (Turner)
  • Wheatland Road Bicycle/Pedestrian Improvements Design ‐ Provide design funding to reconstruct Wheatland Road to create separated sidewalks on both sides, protected pedestrian crossings, and traffic calming. Design only funds requested for 2020. (Keizer)
  • SAMTD Transit ITS Project – The unfunded portion of the previous request to upgrade several components of the current transit Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) components. Timing of equipment purchase is flexible. (Cherriots)
The memo doesn't say how much these applications in total are asking for. So it's hard to say how many will likely miss the cut for funding.

Next month the Technical Advisory Committee with rank them and ODOT will scope them for more detailed costing and analysis. A Public Hearing and decision then will take place in February or March.

Greenhouse Gas Rulemaking

Here's what looks to be a clear casualty of the change in administration at the Federal level.
MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), the federal surface transportation legislation from 2012 to 2015, introduced the requirement for State DOTs and MPOs to do performance-based planning....The rules for the system performance related measures became effective on May 20, 2017, except for the measure to track the percent change in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by on-road mobile sources on the National Highway System (NHS).... After a court challenge, the FHWA published the effective date of this performance measure on September 28, 2017. They stated that they would soon begin the process to repeal the Greenhouse Gas measure. On October 5, 2017, the FHWA published in the Federal Register (2017-21442) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the system performance measure rules to remove any mention of the Greenhouse Gas measure. In their discussion of the proposal, the FHWA also asks for comments “...on whether to retain, or revise, the GHG measure established in the third performance measure final rule. [italics added]
Though this is on the agenda formally only as an "information item," the comment period closes November 6th, and presumably our MPO could choose to comment favorably or unfavorably on the proposed repeal.

The near certainty of a Federal retreat or repudiation underscores the importance of a commitment from local government. Even if it ends up being an "unfunded mandate," we have to make choices, and doing less widening under the guise of "congestion relief" and working more on greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation is a choice we should be willing to make.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
You can download the agenda and meeting packet here.

SKATS Policy Committee meets Tuesday the 24th, at noon. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Our PNW Safe Routes to School group endorsed Scenario 3:

"Far too many our roads and bridges remain in unsafe condition. Many of them need serious safety upgrades to ensure all road users are safe when traveling; others to be repaved and repaired.

Our position: We choose Scenario 3. ODOT should prioritize funding to "fix-it first" and ensure our roads and bridges are safe and sound -- for all roadway users -- before allocating additional funding to highway widening

But does that make the $51M of discretionary non-highway funding go away? That seemed like it was part of the "Enhance" pot in Scenario 2.

If the Enhance money in Scenario 2 is ONLY going to auto-capacity and widening, then Scenario 3 indeed might be optimal. (Maybe more to say later.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Separately, in a PR update from ODOT, about Scenario 3 and the OTC's preferences, they said:

"After receiving feedback from the advisory committees, the commission [the OTC] took Scenario 3 off the table. As a result, some funding will be available to address congestion and highway modernization needs, and the ACTs can remain engaged in project selection.

ODOT staff recommended distributing the Enhance Highway money to ODOT regions and using the funds as a leverage opportunity for the ACTs to add Enhance features to Fix It projects.

ODOT also recommended giving the ACTs the opportunity to add safety and non-highway features to Fix-It projects, which would give ACTs additional opportunities to recommend priority projects.

Advisory committee representatives in attendance weighed in on the funding allocation. The majority supported making Fix-It and Safety the priorities. Also high on the list were ensuring freight movement on main arterials and providing economic development opportunities

This makes it sound like the Area Commissions felt left out and wanted to be able to scatter the spoils for political ends! By removing Enhance funds in Scenario 3, they wouldn't be able to curry favor throwing money around on widening projects.

Maybe that's a cynical reading, but that's how it seemed.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Whoops! Here is the clarification on non-highway programming:

"The three scenarios differ by how much federal funding goes toward the Fix-It program versus the Enhance Highway program. Funding levels for Non-Highway, Safety and Local programs are the same in each scenario."

So if the non-highway is a constant, then yeah, Scenario 3 would be the best outcome.