Monday, May 21, 2018

Goal 7 and the Greenhouse Gases: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 22nd, and they'll be grappling in a more serious way with engaging citizen calls to write a formal goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for inclusion in our upcoming 2019 Regional Transportation System Plan.

For years SKATS has resisted any kind of accounting for greenhouse gases. But there is now an opening and a new possibility for change.

The RTSP's curent draft goal 7 and several options
for a revised goal 7 for the 2019 plan
(May 15th memo, "RTSP Goals: Discussion of Options")
Salem City Council had submitted a letter in support of adding a clause about "reducing greenhouse gases" and this is option C in the supporting memo.

Other MPOs in Albany, Corvallis, and Portland include provisions on carbon and climate disruption. Currently, Bend, Eugene, and the Rogue Valley do not. (Eugene's silence on this is surprising.) So if SKATS adopted language in a goal, we would be right in the middle: Neither an early adopter nor a total laggard. That seems like a very comfortable place to be.

Formal Goals of other Oregon MPOs
(May 15th memo)
But there is a strong obstructionist urge at the MPO. Marion County fully opposes language about greenhouse gases, and the Turner Mayor says greenhouse gases are "a complex and controversial issue," to be addresses only in very "general" language.

"Merchants of doubt" at the MPO
(From the April minutes)
Ordinarily these opinions would be a minority sentiment that could easily be outvoted, but because SKATS operates by a "consensus" model that requires unanimous votes, Marion County is very clearly signalling that they would be willing to hold up a vote and are using that as leverage to extract concessions or a weakening of the language. If other entities like the City of Salem or Cherriots were also willing to play hardball in this way, there might be a dynamic equilibrium with strategic trading at the MPO. But all other SKATS partners have seemed willing to let the County be that bull in the china shop, and have rolled over too easily. The equilibrium is instead a bland and timid one.

Moreover, in the governance structure, with one vote only, the City of Salem is also penalized with a very disproportionately small representation. The MPO structure gives the City of Turner the same vote as the City of Salem! The balance is not right - not demographically representative, anyway. The Salem-Keizer MPO is mostly the City of Salem, and its urban interests should be given more weight by population relative to suburban and unincorporated interests. (Here's a similar discussion about an MPO in Texas for comparison.)

As we noted a few days ago, is determined on the subject of greenhouse gases and goal 7, and they have indicated they "plan to attend every meeting of the SKATS Policy Committee to stay on their case with our demand that they address climate change in the regional transportation goals."

The schedule right now calls for final adoption of the goals in July.

Other Topics

During the Great Recession bids for City road construction projects routinely came in under budget, and the City was able to add many small projects to those funded by the 2008 bond.

That era is over!
The city of Salem is requesting additional federal funds to cover a shortfall for the 12th St.: Hoyt to Fairview Southbound Widening project. The low bid was over $600,000 above the engineer's estimate, and the right-of-way costs were almost double what was programmed. They are requesting an increase of $400,000 in Federal funding: an extra $100,000 for the right-of-way and an extra $300,000 for construction. The city will contribute an additional $1,162,886 of its own funds.
At the Oregon Transportation Commission the I-5 Kuebler to Delany Road project got a boost, doubling from $17 million to $35 million.

It looks like Cherriots TripChoice is getting a bump in funding. In years past they have had $200,000 to $300,000 annual funding, but this looks like a doubling, and maybe even a quadrupling.

(Edited from 2018-2023 SKATS TIP Modifications)
When we scare up $17 million for a highway project, but struggle for a couple hundred thousand for transportation demand management programming, or for Safe Routes to Schools programming, it really says something about our priorities, both in discretionary choices and in structural funding that channel funds in non-discretionary ways.

On the SRC, in April MPO decided not to adjust the work plan:
Kathy Lincoln asked if it would make sense, based on public comment/testimony, to make changes to the [work] program related to the Salem River Crossing Environmental Impact Statement Project (EIS). Mike Jaffe responded that a relatively small amount of funds is allocated to that project, to support any EIS activities that might be asked of SKATS, as well as to keep the Policy Committee informed of any updates. Any funds not spent on those activities could be used on other MPO support activities or returned to the TIP for other projects.

Motion was made by Sam Brentano, seconded by Craig Pope, to adopt Resolution 18-17 adopting the 2018-2018 UPWP. Committee discussion focused on the Salem River Crossing project. Commissioner Sam Brentano does not favor making changes to the UPWP regarding the River Crossing project. Chair Cathy Clark noted that river crossing issues have been studied many times during the past 40 years with no definitive action being taken to preserve a corridor for a third Willamette River bridge. She suggested leaving things the way they are currently described in the UPWP. Ms. Lincoln agreed that due the amount and flexibility of the funds, no changes should be made at the present time....

The motion passed unanimously.
(Previously this past week:
Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
You can download the agenda and meeting packet here.

SKATS Policy Committee meets Tuesday the 22nd, at noon. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.

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