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BTA action alert: More money for bikes and one less highway in HB 2001

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 28th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

The BTA is making a last
ditch effort to fix HB 2001.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has sent out an action alert they hope will bring some much-needed change to the Governor's transportation package that passed the House yesterday.

House Bill 2001, which includes an $840 million list of earmarked highway projects, will be voted on by the Oregon State Senate any day now, so there's a very short timeframe for further advocacy.

The BTA will urge their members (and anyone else that sees the alert) to "ask for a better transportation package". They want people to contact their Senate representatives and tell them to:

1. Increase funding for healthy transportation by increasing the minimum funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure from 1% to 1.5% of highway and street expenditures and putting money in the new Urban Trails Fund.

2. Exclude the $192 million earmark for Newberg-Dundee Bypass. In April, Governor Kulongkoski said, “Having the Legislature choose the transportation projects that will be funded is not the Oregon way.” On a long list of highway projects, the massive Newberg-Dundee earmark stands out for disproportionately serving the interests of a few Oregonians at the cost of improvements that would
benefit the entire state

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Sources I've talked to say the Senate vote is already "wired" (meaning the votes are counted and the bill is guaranteed to pass) and that any major changes at this point are unlikely. However, thanks in part by some negative news coverage that raises the specter of backroom shenanigans, the $192 million Newberg-Dundee Bypass project might be turning into a politically risky project.

If the Senate amends the bill to make the changes the BTA is proposing, it would then have to be referred to the Senate Transportation Committee for approval and then back to the House for their sign-off before it would reach the Governor's desk.

In their action alert, the BTA says the bill passed yesterday "included measures that the BTA supports," but that, "we believe our Oregon legislators can do better."

Specifically, referring to the $840 million in earmarked highway projects listed in the bill, the BTA says they, "cannot support such massive freeway expansion projects without a strong public priority setting process."

The BTA calls the Newberg-Dundee Bypass project "the sore thumb" of those earmarked projects and they call it into question because it, "has not yet received any funding or priority outside of this bill."

Read the full action alert here.

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Comments
  • amos May 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    This form will automatically contact your Rep based on your address.

    It's worth a shot!

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  • peejay May 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Wow. This sounds just as important as stopping the CRC, if you ask me. More wasteful highway spending, more induced demand for ugly, polluting ex-urbs, less money for the infrastructure that would raise the bike mode share. I'm making calls. Who has a tally sheet of the votes as they stand?

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  • Carlsson May 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Amos,

    Thanks for the link to that easy to use form. I just sent it to my Senator and Rep. and urge everyone else to do the same. Time is short on this one!

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  • Zaphod May 28, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Amos #1... That's a great form. I recommend everyone takes 5 minutes and writes. It's dead easy.

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  • Al May 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Absolutely increase funding for alternative modes, but the earmarking argument sounds pretty Sarah Palin for anyone who supported special legislative action to protect the Metolius basin.

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  • jeneraldisarray May 28, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you for the link, amos!
    I'm definitely bookmarking that for future use.
    Yeah!

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  • wsbob May 29, 2009 at 1:58 am

    I wonder about how the BTA would say this:

    "On a long list of highway projects, the massive Newberg-Dundee earmark stands out for disproportionately serving the interests of a few Oregonians at the cost of improvements that would
    benefit the entire state"

    "...a few Oregonians..." . Would they be referring to the Portland to the beach traffic? Or would they be referring to the residents of Newberg and Dundee? Isn't the road that runs through the downtown of those towns a state highway....Hwy 99W? If so, it would be the state's highway that's bringing all that beach/casino destination pass-through traffic through those towns.

    From David Wu's website: (I couldn't seem to find, see, whatever... the date for this appropriations request/press release)

    "Over the past decade, traffic on Oregon 99W has increased by about 40 percent, severely impacting the cities of Newberg and Dundee."
    David Wu press release

    I haven't been yet able to read enough to know whether the bypass is a bad idea or a generally responsible one, but it seems to me that contrary to what the BTA says in their statement that I cited above, the function of the bypass may likely serve the interests of far more than a few people.

    I managed to read a few things about the bypass from the DOT's website. It's a controversial project for lots of reasons...expense...it has to traverse ecological flood-planes...to name a couple, but also, because DOT's plans for the bypass project seek to accommodate future traffic growth projections resulting from the greater efficiency of moving vehicles that the bypass will enable (that's my interpretation, rather than what DOT specifically states on their site).

    The way DOT plans to do this is by adding 2-4 lanes to I-5 where the bypass would hook up to it. So to make it simple, the bypass would probably really improve livability people of Newberg and Dundee (that's not a few people that live there...it's a lot of people), but it sounds like it's also designed to welcome more people to bring their cars out on the road.

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  • Brad May 29, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Because no one in Dundee or Newberg has any interest in getting wine, grapes, or hazelnuts out to market more efficiently right BTA? No one wants to get to or from the coast quicker and safer do they? Nope, the state DOT should only concern itself with "Safe Routes to Stumptown".

    I do thank BTA for calling me to action. This convinces me to donate my money to other causes from now on. The CCC and Bikes Belong accomplish more than these clowns.

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  • E May 29, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the action alert. I contacted my senator about increasing bike and ped funding but I am not sure about the bypass. It's a highway project, but it's also about livability. Current traffic levels damage quality of life in those towns and discourage people from visiting the small local businesses that depend on tourists and city dwellers (the wine industry is one example). These are not "a few people" but a large chunk of Oregon's local economy. Public transit is not a realistic option in a rural area like this. And creating a high-speed highway bypass for all the fast-moving through traffic could help make 99W bike-friendly again.
    Mmm, wine-tasting by bike... heaven. :)

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

    "...the bypass would probably really improve livability people of Newberg and Dundee."

    If by that statement, you mean "Make it easier for people who live in Newberg and Dundee and McMinnville (over 50,000 people) to use a single-occupancy vehicle to commute to a job in Portland every day," you are correct.

    In other worse, the bypass encourages sprawl, in direct contradiction to the State's stated policy of decreasing VMT for the purpose of addressing global warming.

    And it would knock a few minutes off the beach commute for some folks in the Portland and Salem areas. At the expense of wetlands and other wildlife habitat.

    So, do you still wonder why BTA says this would benefit only a few?

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  • GLV May 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

    If by that statement, you mean "Make it easier for people who live in Newberg and Dundee and McMinnville (over 50,000 people) to use a single-occupancy vehicle to commute to a job in Portland every day," you are correct.

    DJ, where are the stats to back up that statement? What data can you point to that shows how many people commute by SOV from Newberg to Portland? I'd like to see it.

    I don't think that's the issue. As others have noted, it is Portland beach/casino/wine country traffic creating the congestion that clogs up those towns' main streets. People aren't going to stop going to the beach. That's just a fact. Even if gas costs $10/gal, in an efficient car, it's not that expensive to go 100 miles round trip. Bike/ped funding won't address this problem at all. And it's not just a few minutes that would be knocked off the trip time; it can be up to an hour. That's a lot of wasted fuel, a lot of CO2 and other pollutants being spewed out into residential areas.

    Not all highway projects are bad. This is an example of one that isn't. Have a little bit of faith in the state growth management program that UGBs and other controls will limit sprawl. Those 50,000 people you mentioned deserve to get their towns back.

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  • Allison May 29, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I always want to encourage political action, but I've worked in the Senate. I would be incredibly surprised if the Senate took out this piece of the bill for the BTA.

    The reasons I think they won't:
    1) Major changes means the House made a mistake. The change being one expensive project means the House made a mistake in a greedy political way. The Senate has an interest in making sure the House maintains it's D majority, and countering them would make them look bad. Also, spending lots of time in conference committee is embarrassing when the bill needs to get to the governor's office.

    2) President Courtney runs a tight ship. How things play one week in May means less for people who have been re-elected several times, only half of whom are up for re-election in 2010, and generally have more experience. They try very hard to make sure disagreements are settled behind closed doors before anyone votes on anything.

    3) The negotiations have been made. For better or worse, the trade offs have been counted and this is what the House has come up with. Re-entering negotiations is a mess.

    4) Between the two, they are not the chamber that's likely to surprise.

    The only thing that could change minds would be a major, major upset - and certainly part of that would be an up swell of complaint from their constituency. So, I encourage everyone to do so. But the time to change this bill was behind the scenes about 3 months ago. This is why we belong to the BTA - to have a lobbyist to do this stuff.

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  • mmann May 29, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Aside from the argument about whether the Newberg-Dundee bypass is a good/bad idea is this question: Is it the the right use of one-fifth of the entire state's transportation budget at this time, in this economy, with the current (sometimes conflicting) concerns about sustainability, reducing VMT and greenhouse gasses, land use, etc. ? The federal money is a windfall, to be sure, but I'm afraid in the rush to spend, politics will trump wisdom. Remember in the 1970's when Oregon politicians had the courage to implement land use planning, kill the Mount Hood Freeway, ensure 1% of transportation money went to bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, create one of the nation's first bottle bills, make sure all Oregon beaches were accessible to all Oregonians...? These were courageous and controversial decisions that could have been killed by politicians who focused only on short-term gains. I'm glad that wisdom prevailed and glad that Oregonians continue to reap the benefits of these decisions.

    But I've got serious doubts that anyone is going to look back at this transportation bill (in its current language) in 30-40 years and call it "visionary" or "far-sighted."

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 9:39 am

    GLV (#11), I'm sure you know how to find population figures using the web. There are over 50,000 people in those three towns. Around 30,000 in Mac alone.

    Having a new highway that goes directly from Mac or Newberg to I-5 will make it easier and quicker (in the short term) for people living there to commute to Portland. It will encourage sprawl. It's pretty basic logic that is backed up with examples from virtually every major American city over the past 50 years.

    And you say it's not the issue, but that "it is Portland beach/casino/wine country traffic creating the congestion..." That is a vast oversimplification that sets up your straw man nicely. That traffic is part of the problem, but not the whole problem.

    Another part is that many people commute between those cities (e.g., Mac & Newberg). Another is that people commute to Portland.

    And we're about to subsidize more people using SOVs to commute to Portland -- insane!!

    They will join the people who use I-5 to commute from/to Wilsonville and Salem and Tigard and Tualatin. I-5 will become a "bottleneck" and then it too will need to be widened. It never ends. And it never solves the underlying problem.

    By the way, a bypass will do nothing to alleviate "wine tourism" traffic, as those people will still need to drive on 99W and other local roads.

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  • Aaron May 29, 2009 at 9:44 am

    MMann did you put that perfectly. These are exactly the words that our Senators need to hear.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I used to live in Portland and work in McMinnville. And then I lived in McMinnville and came to Portland only for fun. So I'm familiar with the local sentiments and potential effects of the bypass.

    The bypass would "open up" Mac to Portland much more. Mac is only about 34 miles from Portland yet it currently takes an hour to get between the two cities.

    Locals are divided about the bypass, because some want faster commutes and better access to Portland (for the airport, for example). Others want to keep Mac's small town charm (such as it is) and fear the bypass will ruin that.

    Regardless, this funding decision provides an excellent point of contrast as to what forms of transportation we value and encourage with our public money.

    Mac is ideal for biking. It has many low-traffic streets and even its arterials are not too bad. 99W, for example, has a bike lane through many parts of town. Elsewhere, it is wide enough with a 35 mph speed limit to be ridden. The town is relatively compact, such that you can get anywhere in town on a bike in 15 minutes or less.

    But nobody rides in Mac. Why? People are afraid. Everybody in town speeds (as they do every where else). Nobody looks for bikes because noone rides. And the City has not designated any routes for bikes, or made any other engineering improvements.

    With proper funding for enforcement, education, and engineering, Mac could be a world-class bike city. Instead, we are facilitating Mac becoming a SOV-fueled bedroom suburb for Portland.

    This choice has consequences, and that will be to encourage driving and discourage biking. These are not Oregon values.

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  • GLV May 29, 2009 at 10:22 am

    My straw man? I didn't ask you for population data, DJ, I asked you for commute mode split data. I also asked you to consider that we have a unique system in Oregon that limits sprawl even in the face of transportation investments. Have all the highway investments since the 70s bespoiled the landscape here, resulting in a completely auto-dominated landscape? If you say yes then you are essentially saying land use and transportation planning has been a complete failure.

    I've driven through there lots of times, and the congestion is worst, by far, on the weekends. That's not local traffic, and it's not going away. To pretend otherwise is irresponsible policy making. I would argue that beach/casino/etc trips are choice trips, and a new road won't have a significant impact on the number of people making them.

    What about the quality of life issues faced by local residents? Do you have anything to say about that? Livability is not a straw man.

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  • Kt May 29, 2009 at 10:57 am

    DJ, #14: I-5 already IS a bottleneck. It's called the Boone Bridge, at Wilsonville.

    I know this because I get to see all the bad traffic here in Tualatin and Tigard when southbound traffic gets blocked at the Boone Bridge.

    Besides all that: not everyone who lives in a suburb commutes to Portland to work! Some of us have chosen to live AND work in the suburbs. Shocking, I know.

    Most of the bottle-neck in Dundee is tourist traffic. I think that most of the locals have found the sneaky backroad route around that traffic jam-- and part of what creates the traffic jam is the here-and-gone multiple lanes between Newberg and Dundee.

    But what do I know, I don't live in Portland, I'm only a suburbanite.

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  • Brad May 29, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Then let the locals decide, DJ. Just because the freeway gets built doesn't mean that McMinnville automatically becomes a suburb of Portland. If locals like you are concerned then use / modify local zoning codes, developments fees, required infrastructure improvements financed by builders, etc. to keep town as is. Love your town? Then fight for it, run for office, and stop expecting advocacy groups and bloggers to do your dirty work.

    Sprawling suburbs don't just happen because drivers can get around easier. They happen because existing local politicians and residents allow developers to build them. It's not like cars become "Transformers" at night and suddenly build a Wal-Mart and 500 cookie cutter homes while everyone is sleeping.

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  • wsbob May 29, 2009 at 10:59 am

    ""...the bypass would probably really improve livability people of Newberg and Dundee."

    If by that statement, you mean "Make it easier for people who live in Newberg and Dundee and McMinnville (over 50,000 people) to use a single-occupancy vehicle to commute to a job in Portland every day,"... . hurricane #10

    No, that's not what I mean. What I mean, is that livability will likely be improved by diverting pass-thru traffic away from those towns central core. Newberg's 2-3 lane (can't remember for sure)main street through downtown is forced to do service as the highway for Portland to beach/casino pass-through commuters.

    I'm still studying DOT's map of the bypass to understand better, the route it takes, what important areas it avoids and so forth. The important thing to note though, is that it's appears to be designed to be a bypass, not a high speed highway. Parts of it will be just two-lane. In the proposal for this project, DOT does have its eye on growth projections...I think it's federally obliged to...but so far I don't really see that it's being proposed particularly as a way to enable Newberg to Portland job commuters.

    Resulting sprawl from aspects of designs like this are still a concern though, because I think DOT's job mission is to simply accommodate growth projections. The job of directing that department to design so as to limit or encourage travel by other means belongs to someone else...us and our representatives, I suppose.

    Newberg is a beautiful little town. Without the horrendous Portland to beach/casino traffic running right down its 2-3 lane main street, it might actually be pleasant to walk or bike along it. That town has been putting up with this for decades.

    It's not far from Newberg's downtown to the Willamette where you can drop a canoe or kayak in the river...paddle out to a little island with a field in the middle of it that a farmer grows a crop on. I used to live there and do this. The only thing that sucked about it was the nearby pulp mill.

    mman #13, your point about timing and responsible spending is well taken. Just to note, this project has been in planning since, I think, 1989.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Yes, so obviously no one is really challenging the notion that this $192 million in public money is really only benefitting the residents of Newberg and Dundee and a few people who want to get to the coast faster.

    But none of you are considering the costs, either. No one seemingly disagrees that a bypass will make it easier to get between Mac and PDX. So Portlanders will drive up property values in Mac, Newberg, and Dundee. What does that do to livability?

    What does all those extra people on I-5 (all people going between Mac & PDX will choose this route) do for the livability of Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville, etc?

    We have the greatest economic crisis in modern history and a budget crisis in Salem, and we spent $192 million on Newberg and Dundee? Really?

    That's simply ridiculous in light of other needs.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Asserting that connecting a nice rural town of ~30,000 people with good schools and low housing costs with an interstate highway only ~30 miles from a major US job center will not encourage growth is just plain dumb. How many more examples could you possibly want?

    GLV (#17), you apparently have no idea how Oregon land use planning works. The UGB is set based on a 20-year supply of housing. If there isn't a 20-year supply, the boundary must be expanded.

    After the bypass encourages more people to live in Mac and work in PDX, there will no longer by a 20-year supply of housing in Mac and its UGB will need to be expanded. That's SPRAWL.

    It may be a little more compact than sprawl in other states without comprehensive land use planning laws, but it's sprawl nevertheless.

    Kt (#18), I know I-5 at Boone Bridge is already a bottleneck. Imagine how much worse it will be when all of the non-local 99W traffic starts going through there as well?

    Of course, the next argument will be that we need a wider I-5. Induced demand. Global warming. Reduced livability. Spending more money on highways that we don't have.

    Oregon Democrats should be ashamed of their elected representatives.

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  • Evan Manvel May 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    The Oregon Senate passed the bill as it came over from the House 24-6.

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  • GLV May 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    It may be a little more compact than sprawl in other states without comprehensive land use planning laws, but it's sprawl nevertheless.

    So what's the alternative? No growth at all? Do you think that was the intention of land use planning? You are wrong on multiple levels; I am very familiar with land use planning as I work with it daily. But I'm not interested in a cred pi$$ing match. Also, what Brad #19 said.

    Don't you think getting cars off the local streets would decrease the fear factor? I do.

    The Oregon Senate passed the bill as it came over from the House 24-6.

    Well I guess that pretty much ends this discussion.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Smart growth is the answer. Growth not driven by construction of new highways connecting the fringes of a metro area to the core, but by more sustainable transportation systems. In a nutshell, Max instead of Mt Hood Highway. Sorry this is so difficult for you to wrap your mind around, GLV.

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  • mmann May 29, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I assume that since it was not sent back to the house that the senate passed the version the house sent, without any changes. Anyone know?

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  • wsbob May 30, 2009 at 12:12 am

    The N-D Bypass is a federally funded project. Isn't growth, at least...economic growth, what the federal government is all about? Growth can be good if it's the kind of growth that people living in an area want

    This $192 million is just for phase one of the Bypass ( I think there's a total of three) I already mentioned in an earlier comment that widening I-5 is part of the overall project. Any exact or fixed amount of savings in travel time the bypass would create for road users (that might make them decide to be Portland to N-D home to work and back commuters) would probably be hard to be certain of. Engineers and planners could theorize until the cows come home about this, but never be able to promise.

    In the short term, the only thing that seems certain is that the bypass might get some heavy duty traffic volume out of Newberg and Dundee's downtowns. Maybe Newberg could or should then remove the couplet and go back to the two-lane-two-way main street it used to have for its main street, to slow things down a bit.

    Looking at the DOT map again, I realize that the bypass bisects land between Newberg's south city limits and the river. That's not so good.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 31, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    No, it's also certain that travel time between PDX and Mac will be cut considerably.

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  • Vance Longwell May 31, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    DJ Hurricane #Lots -

    Sprawl: Not illegal. Not hurting you. Not any of your business who chooses to live where, for any reason. At least that's what I'm told by the Californians raping my homestate.

    Single Occupancy Vehicle: Not illegal. Not hurting you. Not any of your business who chooses what to get around. At least that's what these folks on Chinese made junkfeits, single moms dragging a rolling circus down the road held together with duct-tape and bobby-pins, and others on their brakeless bikes tell me.

    If you'd lived in Mac you'd know there is easily 60,000 people there, and within a few miles of that town. You know, residing there. Hell even the POP sign (44,000) contradicts what you dug up on the net. Ridiculous distinction anyway because, if you'd ever lived there you know that commute takes 4-6 hours sometimes. An hour out of the rush maybe. Then only maybe 'cause then there really is coastal, and casino traffic.

    I use weird logic models all the time to put the turd in other people's pocket, but man you're logic just doesn't exist. Your entire position is usually based upon the outrageously erroneous assumption that if you increase vehicle trip times enough (Simultaneously creating more GHGE on orders of magnitude.) people will stop driving. Wrong. What part of the last century did you miss?

    Mac is an intensely blue-collar town. This isn't your favorite straw-man, these people don't exclusively own Hummers. Moreover the Portland residents who commute likely work at Cascade as there is absolutely NO professional work down there. The ones coming up here are likely doing so at great personal expense, and sacrifice. Mostly because short-sighted people like you won't stop spending on George Jetson Bikefrastructure long enough to even consider helping their economy.

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  • DJ Hurricane May 31, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Go look up 'negative externality,' Vance.

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  • wsbob May 31, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    "No, it's also certain that travel time between PDX and Mac will be cut considerably." hurricane

    'considerably'. what's that mean in percent travel time for the years following completion of the bypass? In this instance, you can't say with certainty. Neither can the engineers and planners, or if they do, it's to placate or satisfy someone's expectation. Anything they could say would be a rough guess, the validity of which would be contingent on numerous, indefinite variables.

    It takes more than a phase of a bypass project to enable residential development growth. There is 'more' to it. This is what people are having lots of thought about. It might be possible for people to, for example, demand their government build the bypass to save the town but not enable further residential growth (or strictly limit it), but would they then still be able to get the federal money for the project?

    As I mentioned before, the bypass would clean up Newberg and Dundee of some of the traffic from the state's highway. That would offer those towns the opportunity to restore a quality of livability to their downtowns that they've had to do without for years because of the highway.

    Doing this makes sense from the standpoint of centralizing the components necessary to create a potentially more self sustaining downtown. I'm inclined to agree with the idea that if people find the downtown of their town to be a comfortable, convenient place to do their shopping and so forth...maybe on foot, bike or other means besides a personal motor vehicle, this should actually counter sprawl to some extent.

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  • DJ Hurricane June 1, 2009 at 8:04 am

    No, it's not a matter of numerous or an indefinite number of variables. It will be quicker to get from Mac to PDX using the bypass until induced demand renders it not so.

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