Monday, December 11, 2017

At the MPO: Technical Committee on Project Requests, Rulemaking

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 12th, and there are some things to note in passing. They are also meeting at Courthouse Square rather than the MPO offices.

The committee is continuing work on vetting projects for a slice of funding from the 2018-2023 cycle:
SKATS received eight applications for consideration for funding in the latest update to the FY 2018-2023 TIP with requests totaling approximately $9.3 million. Approximately $5.5 million is available, so the projects will need to be prioritized to determine which projects (or partial projects) to fund.
In the minutes from last month about some of these projects:
[On Brown Road] new federal ROW regulations are responsible for the increase in ROW costs...[which therefore] are significantly higher than originally anticipated....

[T]he Center Street project is Marion’s County’s highest priority of their projects submitted for funding. [MPO staff] asked if the Connecticut Avenue project is highly ranked as a Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) project. [County Staff] responded that she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking. Concerns related to the Connecticut Avenue project include how to address ADA (Americans with Disability Act) issues....

[T]he city of Keizer is unsure of its vision for Wheatland Road and has revised their project application. [Keizer staff] passed out a new application. The city would like to do a concept corridor plan with public outreach to determine the direction for Wheatland Road improvements.
The current agenda packet includes the first pass at scoring the projects:

First round of scoring
Completion funding for Brown Road leads the pack. In second place is the Center Street project, but the County Staff response that "she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking" doesn't actually sound very confident at all. Do we actually have a SR2S plan that ranks County projects? Or is this just sales talk and BS? Additionally, there are real questions about the Center Street project's proposed design elements, which seem squarely autoist at the moment.

The bottom three look quite reasonable. Keizer is confused about Wheatland Road; it's hard to see regional significance for a Turner project; and the Orchard Heights thing is over-ambitious, a little messy, and remains a "tier 3" priority in the TSP.

Given the projects that were submitted (so, that is to say we might wish different projects were submitted, but we're looking only at what was submitted), the scoring looks like it's heading in the right direction.

Though for our purposes it's not probably necessary to dive in too deeply to the details of the funding itself, it is useful to consider the actual constraints in programming the funds. "Two biennial programs" (nature unspecified, and which may deserve a closer look) will reduce funding in 2020 to just under $8,000 - which rounds to zero. That's a little donut hole that will have to be worked around. Sometimes it's a puzzle, and funding good things is not always as straightforward as it should be. "It's always more complicated than you think."

There's a gap in funding for the year 2020
The TAC will also get an update on a formal State rulemaking project:
The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is initiating a Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) to advise the department in the development of amendments t existing rules. The RAC will consider amendments to the rules in order to clarify rules for transportation planning in the state's metropolitan areas, building upon the recommendations developed by the 2016 Advisory Committee on Metropolitan Transportation Planning and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets.
The details are tedious, but particularly in light of the way the SRC flouted - and then LUBA affirmed the flouting - of the plain meaning of several elements in the State Transportation Planning Rule, additional clarity and/or teeth would be helpful.

Unfortunately the two staff members representing the MPO are also principals on the SRC, and may not have incentive to push for better rules. Already we know our MPO opposes assessment of greenhouse gas pollution, and at a more personal level our local staffing on the advisory committee may also have a bias against change and even face a kind of conflict of interest. The rules they seek may be structured in such a way that they offer no check on big projects like the SRC and instead function to greenwash or dilute them. Our representation may not be positioning the rulemaking effort for actual success.

In the meeting packet itself, presented without much context or discussion, there's a grid of proposed performance measures, which are a little interesting:

Draft Performance Measures
"Bike level of Traffic Stress" and "Construction of high quality bike facilities" look on the surface to be helpful.

It's hard to say very much about the project at the moment, however.

Also in the minutes from last month, there is some SRC fan fiction! "The Salem River Crossing Project is not on 'hold' but is working through remand issues."

Mid-November update to SKATS
What the heck does that mean? That sounds like some under-handed nefarious flouting of the need for a new set of Land Use actions, and contrary to the current wishes of City Council?

N3B has already noted that the MPO formal work plan includes continuing work on the SRC. But just today they said "our work is done." I'm not sure this confidence is warranted. There are signs the SRC is being devious and may not be checked in the way our current Council would like them to be checked. Either the team is misrepresenting actual prospects for completion, or there is something sneaky here. This may deserve more attention, especially if there is in fact an underhanded way to complete the FEIS and Record of Decision.

Note change in location! The Technical Advisory Committee for the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study meets Tuesday the 12th, at 1:30pm, in Courthouse Square, the Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St NE.   

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I'm glad to see both the Brown Road and the Center Street projects finally moving forward. They are long overdue and will make pedestrian and bike travel so much safer. Lots of school children use those routes, but also many mothers pushing strollers to local businesses too. The design will bring the underdeveloped sections up to the same standard as the sections within the City of Salem that are already completed.

I do wonder whether they will address the water and sewer issues at the same time. I hope so. Drainage is important. And if there is ever going to be development on the old mushroom property at Cordon and State it needs to have a water line brought down from Lancaster Drive.