Tuesday, August 31, 2021

MWACT Meets Thursday: Lots of Crosswalks and other Safety Projects for 2024-2027 Funding Cycle

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation, MWACT, meets on Thursday the 2nd, and they have a number of interesting items on the agenda. 

Even though the membership of MWACT overlaps a lot with the membership of SKATS, the ACT is a creation of ODOT and State regulations, whereas SKATS is largely a creation of USDOT and Federal regulations. For non-specialists these expressions of the bureaucracy are largely opaque, duplicative, and Byzantine.

The ACT also represents a lot of rural area, the whole of Yamhill, Marion, and Polk counties, and often they are focused on highway matters or other roads distant from Salem. So we don't talk about them very often here.

But this month they have a lot of urban and non-auto matters of interest.

Alas, there is something profoundly remedial in the agenda items.

Do we really have to keep doing this?

The first agenda item is "Strategic Bike /Pedestrian Project Prioritizations for FY 24-27 STIP Update." Which might be great if it was really about "strategy" and "priority." But the presentation is padded with yet another instance of supplication, "why fund walking and biking."

Apparently, even with rising traffic fatalities and rising emissions from motorized vehicles, it is not a baseline or self-evident yet. That's the reality and it is dispiriting.

(In fact, outside of urban areas there are ways that walking and biking might be even more politicized now. See especially "How a trail in rural Oregon became a target of far-right extremism," a new take on the collapse of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, which had been on the agenda of MWACT several times in the past few years. Here in 2016 is some criticism of it, which reads a little differently now in light of the news on right-wing extremism. Maybe the composition of MWACT really does need this presentation and approach. At the same time, ODOT could more firmly support walking and biking, and make it clear they are in fact a baseline, not an enhancement or amenity.)

In the minutes from last meeting they talked about the scoring for walking and biking facilities on the "Active Transportation Needs Inventory," but they do not seem to have made any changes since last time. The curves on the downtown Pringle Parkway remain the worst - but scanning the list of projects in this meeting I didn't see anything to address it specifically.

ODOT ATNI Evaluation Criteria and Prioritization

And there are a lot of projects buried in the agenda. The second agenda item is a list of projects proposed for scoping before final funding decisions. Many of these are new proposals that have not, I think, hit City Council agenda.

A bunch of new crosswalk improvements proposed

The most exciting might be a new list of crosswalks for improvement and a couple for outright creation.

These would be funded under ODOT's All Roads Transportation Safety program. Many of these arise out of the City's Safer Crossings and Sidewalks program.

Marion County also has a cluster of crosswalk projects in the urban area.

To replace "doghouse" signal - MUTCD 4D-11
(note in blue added)

Also applying for ARTS funding is a large group of signals in Salem proposed to get new signal heads.

"Doghouse" signal heads will be retrofitted to flashing yellow left turn arrow [,] and No Pedestrian Phase feature will be used as appropriate.

About the "no pedestrian" phase, ODOT says:

Flashing yellow left turn arrow signal heads should also be used to operate in “not-ped” mode. “Not-ped” mode allows delaying or omitting the FYLTA in the presence of pedestrian(s) in the conflicting crosswalk. When a crosswalk is occupied by pedestrian(s), the FYLTA should not operate during the walk interval or walk and flashing don’t walk intervals.

As I read this, it might be better to call it a "protected walking phase." When people are in the crosswalk, the flashing yellow would not appear, turns would not be allowed, and people on foot are protected from drivers making a left turn. The "not ped" or "no pedestrian" phase appears to be engineering jargon from the paradigm of "pedestrian impedance," when people on foot are considered noise in the system rather than the foundational act of mobility.

But probably these "improved" signal heads also require using the beg button, and do not automatically register people on foot. Still an improvement, but still in the autoist paradigm. (Here is the MUTCD on the FYLTA head, a four light unit.)

Signals in South Salem

Signals in North Salem

The whole North River Road corridor in Keizer is also applying for new signals and study.

And there are many other projects for rural roads on popular bike routes applying for various safety treatments.

Curb ramps

Under the ADA funding bucket, there are a number of curb ramps in Salem.

Finally, under the "Enhance" bucket, the euphemism for widening and capacity expansion, there is another lane for I-5. This is a project that deserves more scrutiny under our climate emergency. We should no longer be widening highways.

Highway widening is a kind of climate arson

There will be a formal ODOT online Open House on all these projects, starting September 15th, and there will likely be more to say then. There are a lot of projects to consider, and it is not possible at the moment to give them the attention they deserve. The packet here is also full of image scans and it would be nice to have more text instead. More later, then.

MWACT convenes Thursday the 2nd at 3:30pm. The meeting packet and agenda is here.

Meeting information


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

On the "doghouse" signals projects in Salem, here is a map of the locations in South Salem, and a map for North Salem. (They are in the image scan, could not be copy/pasted, and had to be transcribed by hand.)

anothervoice said...

I like it. Signal improvements that protect pedestrians while allowing better traffic flow would be a win-win.
I am reminded of the video posted by Ken Adams which showed how a Scandinavian country utilized sophisticated traffic control systems that made bicycling and walking safer and more practical.
Moving in that direction seems appropriate to our circumstances.