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Oregon chooses just one bike/ped project with stimulus funds

Posted by on March 2nd, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Riders will no longer be in
the dark on the I-205 bike path.
(Photo © J. Maus)

On Friday, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC, a body appointed by Governor Kulongoski) made their final decisions on how to spend $122,592,742 in federal stimulus funds. And, if you remember our report from last week, it seems like their “cautious willingness” to consider non-highway projects turned out to be more cautious than willingness.

Just $2.5 million (2% of the total) of that money will go toward bike and pedestrian projects — or should I write project (without the “s”). Of the 30 or so projects given the green light by the OTC, just one of them is labeled as “Pedestrian/Bicycle”. That project will “Improve and illuminate the I-205 bike and ped path north of Gladstone”.

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That’s good news if you ride on the I-205 bike path, but if you were looking for Oregon to put stimulus funds to use on bike-specific projects (like Metro and other groups were), you’re sure to be disappointed.

“…in an “emergency” situation like the stimulus package, a lot of road projects are ready to go but bike/ped and transit aren’t.”
— Karl Rohde, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

Why are bike/ped projects only 2% of the total infrastructure stimulus funding? I asked Karl Rohde from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (he’s their man down in Salem) that same question. Here’s one reason he gave:

“One of the biggest problems we’ve run into is the same one that transit runs into, whereas road projects can be planned and designed up to the point of construction, bike/ped (and transit) often needs to prove funding before they can proceed to construction design phase. So in an “emergency” situation like the stimulus package, a lot of road projects are ready to go but bike/ped and transit aren’t.”

Rohde also shared that projects in the “preservation” category took the lion’s share of the money (about $60 million). Preservation is bureaucrat-speak for “paving”, and, as we found out with the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation’s budget last week, paving is the hot thing right now.

Paving is definitely important and, “Roads are constant need of preservation,” explained Rohde. But on the other hand, he said, “Bike/ped and transit projects don’t need much continuing preservation once they are built. That’s what makes them so much more cost effective than roads.”

On the bright side, the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program (another federal pot of money doled out by ODOT), is looking nice and full this year. TE is only for non-motorized vehicle projects and Rohde says Oregon could potentially have about $40 million to spend on them. Of course, Oregon also has a history of sending that money back to the feds because it doesn’t get spent in time.

All this leads Rohde to dream: “I would like to see us get to a point where we have a bunch of bike/ped projects designed and ready to go to contract, sitting on the shelf waiting for these miracle pots of money. (Although, I’m doubtful we will ever see another stimulus package the likes of what we are seeing today.) ”

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  • Allison March 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    So…how do we change the rules so we can have construction-ready bike/ped projects w/o funding identified? That sounds like a real Catch-22. “Can’t fund it until it’s planned. Can’t plan it until it’s funded” – I’m assuming it’s a fed reg?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    “So…how do we change the rules so we can have construction-ready bike/ped projects w/o funding identified?”

    I think one of the big issues here comes down to priorities. Bike projects just aren’t a priority that can compete with paving projects and adding highways lanes.

    The whole, “the bike projects aren’t shovel-ready” line, I think, is a cop-out and a scapegoat.

    The question is, why aren’t bike projects ready? Rohde’s funding/planning chicken and egg scenario is one reason… but another thing to consider is… how much of a priority is given to planning bike projects within ODOT and/or PBOT? Are staffers given the same amount of time/resources to plan them as they are given to plan traditional road projects?… or, are they worked on on-the-side as “special projects” pushed along only by internal advocates who have an interest in non-motorized projects?

    This is an issue I am very interested in and I’m considering delving more deeply into it.

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  • BURR March 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Studded tires destroy road surfaces. If Oregon really wanted to preserve it’s roads, the legislature would promptly ban the use of studded tires effective immediately.

    For example, the new sections of I-84 between I-205 and the Sandy River were paved 15 or so years ago, with concrete that should have lasted 50 years. However, they need repaving now as a result of studded tire damage.

    Similar sections of I-5 south of Salem widened and rebuilt within the past 5 years, are already showing signs of premature studded tire damage.

    Studded tire damage to roads costs tens of millions of dollars to repair annually; this is an unnecessary expenditure that takes money away from other transportation projects of all types.

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  • BeerdedOne March 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    “Although, I’m doubtful we will ever see another stimulus package the likes of what we are seeing today.”

    LMAO. Karl, get those projects in order, stat! 2008 4th quarter GDP was -1.55%, similar projection for this quarter.

    Six months to a year tops before the next stimulus comes down the pike. Be Ready next time!

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  • John Lascurettes March 2, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Grrr!

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  • Anonymous March 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Try this paving project on for size:
    the Springwater Trail, from 3 Bridges/Sellwood east to the Gresham border. People have been complaining about the rough/deteriorating condition of the pavement for years, & Parks has submitted it for grant funding to no avail.

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  • Bjorn March 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Even more disappointing than the lack of bike spending is the lack of bike and ped spending. There is an enormous amount of shovel ready need for sidewalks in our state, and sidewalks because they are labor intensive to build are one of the best things to spend our subsidy dollars on to stimulate the economy. See Michael Ronkin’s open letter on the subject at portland Transport:

    http://www.portlandtransport.com/archives/2009/01/an_open_letter_2.html

    Bjorn

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  • a.O March 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    You know, from Sam Adams to Gov K and all the way in between, I’m sick of hearing how “green,” “sustainable,” and “progressive” these Oregon politicians think they are. Actions not words. Put up or shut up.

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  • Marion March 2, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Yeah, I totally agree Beerded One, this stimulus wasn’t big enough.. Sad to say.. but it’s just not.

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  • cyclist March 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Jonathan:

    To what extent do you think this was caused by the fact that the list of “shovel ready” bike projects wasn’t ready when it was needed? Last week (or two weeks ago) you posted a story that said the OTC’s decision was held up while the BTA/bike advocates got a list together. I asked you then why such a list hadn’t been prepared in advance and never got an answer. I’m wondering if the outcome might have been different if the BTA had their ready to go when the OTC needed it.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I imagine it cost money and employees people to get a project to the “shovel ready” phase. What is wrong with sending some stimulus (jobs) that way?

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  • r March 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    as a person who uses a bicycle every day as my sole mode of transportation, let me say that paving does matter. there are many, many, many streets in Portland that are inadequately paved and/or allowed to fall into disrepair. I am not saying repave everything (obviously there is some degree to which I could simply choose a different route), but even on the better-paved thoroughfares there are problems. also, I think the city needs to seriously re-think its practices on sweeping streets. there is way too much debris (including glass) out there. they say they can’t get in among the parked cars. I say, set aside specific days on which it is illegal to park here and there, sweep the streets, and ticket and tow any cars left there.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) March 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    “To what extent do you think this was caused by the fact that the list of “shovel ready” bike projects wasn’t ready when it was needed?”

    I’m sure it had something to do with that. It’s a good question and I’ll try to do some more follow up on it. Sorry I did not have more on that in the initial story.

    Karl, if you’re reading this, can you add anything about that list?

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  • Christopher March 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I am happy about the 205 path. It’s sad to see other projects get turned down, but having resurfaced roads is also a bonus for bikes. That right turn off of broadway on to williams is rough at speed because you cruise over toward the center line and it’s just pothole after pothole.

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  • peejay March 2, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    a.O: Hear, hear! I’m sick of people greenwashing their work, just enough to get a pithy story on the local news, and then screw us over when it comes time to spend the bucks. Study after study has shown how effective non-car infrastructure projects are for the health of our environment, and yet nobody has the courage to fight for these projects. It’s not just CRC Sam, although he’s the most disappointing so-called progressive politician I can think of. Everybody wants to give us some lip-service. Well, we’re gonna give them some back! Starting with CRC Sam.

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  • Scott Mizée March 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Note: not all decisions have been made regarding stimulus funding:
    Support NEEDED from Mayor, Parks and Metro for Waud Bluff Trail in Stimulus Funding!

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  • a.O March 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    peejay: I think we need to do more to raise awareness of greenwashing, as it has become rampant. CRC Sam is the most obvious example: Most sustainable city on Earth my a$$!

    But Gov K is equally guilty. He talks in hushed undertones about the devestation of our economy and environment that will be wrought by global warming if we don’t change our carbon-emitting ways. He creates blue-ribbon commissions to give recommendations like reducing vehicle miles traveled and capping or taxing carbon emissions. He talks about the need for people to change their lifestyles.

    And then what does he do? This.

    And make no mistake, this kind of rhetoric wins elections because the people want action on these issues. If people were more aware of greenwashing as a way of getting elected, they might be more willing to hold them accountable afterward.

    And yes, it starts with CRC Sam.

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  • Scott Bricker, BTA March 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    The list that the BTA posted on our website was compiled approximately a month ago, and was the data used in the Feb. 12 letter sent by the Transportation for Oregon’s Future coalition.

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  • BURR March 2, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    The business lobbies like PBA and AOI lead our politicians around by their noses, not one of them has the cojones to tell the business lobbies to screw off and do the right thing anymore.

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  • Stig March 2, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Repave the Springwater then. The Springwater @ i205 being crushed by the heavy equipment used in building the new Max green line hasn’t helped much either. Maybe Tri-met should pay for the repairs there.

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  • Aaron March 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Another ‘shovel ready’ project is the continuation of the Springwater Trail to Boring, Or. and beyond. That’s a planned project from what I hear but it’s waiting on $$.
    I agree that it’s tiresome to hear about this being a ‘green’ city. It’s only green to the extent that our politicians and citizens don’t have to think outside the (metal) box.

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  • scoot March 2, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Can’t we at least get the Arctic Blast Gravel cleaned up? It’s been shovel ready for quite awhile. Somebody’s going to get hurt crossing the 405 into downtown in the bike lane from Barbur Blvd. It can be hairy when it’s clear, but at least it functions as a little ramp for grabbing your place in traffic.

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  • Loren March 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    This seems awfully convenient to “spend money” on a project that was probably going to get alot of work done by tri-met.

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  • hanmade March 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Personally, I hate the 205 bikepath. It’s noisy, you get to look at a large freeway full of vehicles, and you are being exposed to nasty pollutants at close range (benzine comes to mind). I have only ridden it once, that was enough. I would love to see Springwater get repaved, and lights down by tideman park would be nice, too.

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  • Coyote March 3, 2009 at 8:24 am

    ODOT’s intent is to absorb as much of this money as they can internally. ODOT has a budget problems like every other department in the state. Repaving and filling potholes will be done by ODOT crews which are not well suited to new construction.

    The next batch of money will be absorbed by the engineering, planning, and administrative portions of ODOT. This stimulus package is not going to stimulate very much. It is rapidly becoming a bailout for the state budget.

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  • Jeff Ong March 3, 2009 at 11:36 am

    The 205 path is really unappealing, but it’s very useful. While the Springwater has lots of charm and is much more pleasant to ride, 205 is arguably more important for transportation purposes. I’m glad to see some money being spent to make it less hellish to ride (maybe some of those stupid transitions where you have to ride up on the sidewalk and use crosswalks can be improved).

    That said, I think it’s tragic that we’re spending so much on making it even easier and faster to drive in Portland, and so little on basic safety accommodations for cyclists.

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  • John Reinhold March 3, 2009 at 1:33 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.

    http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=29555

    Make your comments heard!

    (repaving the springwater is in there)

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