Group responds to ODOT/OTC stimulus decision: "What went wrong?"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 2nd, 2009 at 3:47 pm

"What went wrong?... The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money."
-- excerpt from a statement set to go out to supporters of Transportation for Oregon's Future

Transportation for Oregon's Future -- a "network of organizations and businesses supporting transportation choices for the 21st Century" -- is not happy with the decisions made by ODOT's Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on how to spend Oregon's initial, $122 million chunk of federal stimulus funds.

As we reported this morning, the OTC decided last week to fund just one bike/ped project (valued at $2.5 million) out of 30 total projects and they did not fund a single transit project.

Bob Stacey is the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon and he's working on the Transportation for Oregon's Future effort. He is disappointed in the OTC's decision and he's already planning a course of action. He gave me a sneak peek at the email he plans to send out to supporters (1,300 of them wrote to Governor Kulongoski about this issue in just a few days).

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In that email, his group explains how the OTC "cut all but one of the bike and pedestrian projects" that had been on the initial list and how they "refused to put a single transit project on the list." The email also points out that the share of road widening projects increased from "less than a quarter to more than one-third of total spending" (at the expense of cuts to road and bridge repair).

And here's how Stacey's group explains what might have happened (emphasis mine):

"What went wrong? Our voices were not the only ones raised. The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money. It responded by reducing the size of its project approval list (from $191 million down to $122 million), and gave itself until mid-March to consider how to spend the balance and take additional input. This would have been a good step, except that the Commission cut only bike, pedestrian, transit, and road repair projects to get there.

Stacey says now they'll work to restore "good projects", get transit and more bike/ped projects onto the list and "keep the road widening off the next list."

UPDATE: I spoke with an ODOT spokesperson today. They'll be releasing info on an application process tomorrow to help them select the next round of projects to be funded by the remaining $100 million in stimulus funds.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    We lost to road widening?

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  • peejay March 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Everyone loves road widening, because it has a 0% success rate! What's not to love?

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  • BeerdedOne March 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    It bears repeating that this is not going to be the last federal stimulus that will be needed to combat the economic meltdown, it is the first.

    While we fight for these dollars to be reallocated to more sustainable transportation initiatives, the community would be best served by absorbing this lesson as fast as possible and move forward now with aggressive planning for the NEXT pot of federal dollars that is surely on the way.

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  • matt picio March 2, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Don't presume this is the first of many - there are no guarantees. The US Government is running a record deficit and massive debt, and there are NO guarantees. The community would best be served by fighting at all levels to make the situation better, including THIS ONE.

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  • Matthew Denton March 2, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    So this guy goes in for a job interview as a signalman on the railroad. And the interviewer asks him what would he do if the train broke down and another train was coming. And the guy says "I'd get my lantern out and walk down the tracks signal the other train to stop" And the interviewer asks him what he'd do if the lantern was broken. And the guy says "I'd wave a big white sheet instead of the lantern" And the interviewer asks him what if he didn't have a sheet. And he said, "I'd build a big smoky fire next to the tracks so the train would slow down and I could yell at the engineer when it went past." And the interviewer asks him what if the train didn't slow down. And the guy says "I'd go get my brother." And the interview asks him what would his brother do. And the guy says "Nothing. But he has never seen a train wreck either."

    The analogy fits. ODOT is a train wreck, and at this point, the only remaining option is to "go get your brother" and watch.

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  • old&slow March 2, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    What does the B.T.A do? Cyclists have to count on 1000 friends of oregon to do anything for cyclists? I get more e-mails about their Toklas party than I do bike issues. Other than bike shop discounts they are worthless!

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  • Erik March 3, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Road widening? The roads are plenty wide, the only problem is people drive oversized vehicles on them.

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  • E Fudd March 3, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Bicylists should pay an anual fee for license and a bike registration fee and then a bike path tax like users of the road do then they can have a better system. Car drivers and motorcyclists all do , they should have to have liability coverage as well and need to obey rules of the road ie stop signs or staying to the right . Before you get going I ride too , but fair is fair .

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  • John Reinhold March 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Metro got 38 million of the stimulus package for Transportation and the Metro committee JPACT is voting on the project list this Thursday. I believe the public comment period closes today.


    Make your comments heard!

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  • Kt March 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    E Fudd, you've just opened a can of worms-- or a can of wormy horsemeat, as that issue is one that's been discussed to death. Bringing it up here is just beating a dead horse.

    But, to summarize: CYCLISTS ALREADY PAY THEIR FAIR WAY. Most of us have driver's licenses, own houses, pay property taxes either on our own property or as part of our rent, pay income taxes... Until cars and trucks truly pay 100% of road maintenance and creation, car and truck drivers can't say that cyclists don't pay their way. We pay their way as well as our own.

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  • Jim March 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

    For E Fudd above: For those who complain that cyclists don't pay their way, remember that drivers don't completely pay for roads either. But cyclists reduce health care costs by staying fit, reduce pollution caused health care costs, and keep our local dollars local instead of paying for imported oil.
    But let's placate those who don't think we pay our way. How about a vehicle weight fee at the time of purchase to pay for wear and tear on the roads? At 10 cents per pound, a 30lb bike would be assessed $3, and a 5,000 lb SUV would be $500.
    If you want to include the weight of the rider, then include the weight of walkers. (sarcasm)

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  • E Fudd March 8, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    If you want special road ways and bike paths etc you need to pay like everyone else. My mortorcycle weighs 400lbs but I stil need licence, insurance, a special endorsement etc , why should bicycles get a pass and their own roadway too ? Yet you think you should part of the road use fees ie gas tax for your own use ? Bike fees paid by cyclists would just be fair , nobody gets it for free.

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  • JPW March 8, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Mr. Fudd's comment that nobody gets it for free is partly true, partly not. The true cost of operating a vehicle is between $5 and $10 a gallon. The difference between what you pay ($2.25 gallon) and the minimum of $5 a gallon true cost is the free part for the motor vehicle operator. All others, drivers, cyclists, walkers, and those who don't drive, pay in a variety of ways. Taxes on gas do not cover the cost of our roads. Another problem with the notion that "nobody gets it for free" relates to pedestrians. Shall they pay a fee to use the sidewalk?
    The idea of a vehicle weight fee might be good for a motorcycle owner. Taken at the initial purchase, a 400 lb motorcycle would only add $40 to the cost.
    For a motorcycle owner, a cyclist should be a welcome partner on the road. A 5,000 lb SUV is your real threat.

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  • Realist January 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Well I think we can all see that using the buzz word of "cycling" improvements can be used for funding other projects. Lobbyists are smiling and laughing at the prospect of actually following through on cycling projects instead of road improvements. Non of this should be a surprise, I'm invovled in City government and in the bike industry and these two factors don't play well together. You'll hear people argue this and that's great, but, no BS, where's the beef? Results, no more just talky talky. As far as the BTA, from a shop perspective, we've not heard from these people. This last year two prominent members were unceremonioulsy eleminated. No attempt from BTA to explain their actions, rumors are someone in high up BTA got the knickers in a bunch. You all must ask why these two powerful advocates were eliminated and in lieu of explanations and a clear plan of action, we're just left to wonder. BTA will not get my support until some positive improvements have been made. I no longer promote BTA memberships, and I wont until we see some seriuos improvements and attitude changes. If you all think that Portland is this mecca of cycling, then you not seeing the real picture. Seattle has more bicycle improvements than Portland does. When did the process stop? when will it start again? The reason you see so many of these little fractered groups all trying to prove their the ones promoting cycling issues is because the community is NOT truly organized. The people who oppose cycling improvements are the ones laughing. And it's no wonder, look at what's not happening. Portland, enough BS, get with the program and get organized. Identify those in opposition and what their interests are and go after them. Simple Portland, follow the money! who's affected by what? who benefits? who doesn't? I'm ready to talk reality, not the least bit interested in dancing around the issues and who's causing them.

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  • Realist January 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Oh wait, I almost forgot. Anyone hear go to the Alice B Toeclips award ceremony? I could have sworn that we had ODOT people and other govt people talk about their commitment to cycling. Sounds good when you're in front of a room of cyclists and your trying to improve your PR. Again, results politicrats! some of us are watching, and we're looking for results, pure and simple.

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