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Follow up: Blumenauer points out “inaccuracies” in Coburn’s report

Posted by on December 22nd, 2010 at 9:15 am

Spokane St. Bike Blvd - by Adams Carroll-12
Portland’s bikeway signage grant
paid for signs like these too.
(Photo: Adams Carroll/BikePortland)

As the former City of Portland Commissioner of Transportation and current Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) does not take criticism of bicycling lying down.

Blumenauer’s office, working on facts provided by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, issued a response to allegations made yesterday by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that a federal grant for bikeway signage in Portland was “wasteful.” In his Waste Book 2010 report Coburn mischaracterized the signage project, claiming that $900,000 was spent on bike network wayfinding signs when similar signs were already installed.

In a statement titled, Waste Book 2010 Inaccuracies, Blumenauer’s office listed details about the project that Coburn left out of his report:

  • Wayfinding signage was a small percentage of the total funds allocated and expended.
  • Other advance warning crossing signage at busier streets was added for safety of pedestrians and cyclists. (see photo at top of post)
  • The City also removed some existing crossing signage and reinstalled it to improve visibility at existing crossings.
  • Total for all signage (wayfinding and safety) with sign posts and footings was $69,180.
  • New wayfinding signage was placed in areas without existing signage.
  • The City will have constructed an additional 30 miles of new bicycle boulevard facilities in two years by June 2011 – the ARRA grant provided for the necessary wayfinding and crossing signage for these new facilities.
  • New wayfinding signage altered the existing design by making the destinations (words and distance) larger and reducing the size of the bicycle symbol. The destinations and distance are the most important information on the signs.
  • Existing signage was left in place – new signage is not duplicative but installed in areas that lacked signage.
  • MUTCD standard pavement markings (sharrows) were the highest percentage of total funds allocated.
  • Other costs included engineering, project management, contractor compliance for pollution control and erosion control, contractor mobilization and traffic control.

Blumenauer’s office also included a cost breakdown for materials and installation:

  • Wayfinding signage 450 signs – $9,000
  • Crossing signage for bicycles and pedestrians 1,180 signs – $18,880
  • Removal and installation of crossing signage – $3,000
  • Sign posts for above signs – $13,300
  • Footings for sign posts – $25,000
  • Total for signage – $69,180
  • MUTCD standard sharrow pavement markings (2100 markings) – $480,671

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Comments
  • trailsnet December 22, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Blumenauer for president. The more I hear about that guy, the more I like him. If we had more representatives that valued bicycling/alternative transportation, we’d be healthier, safer, happier, greener, and less wasteful. This post fits in perfectly with today’s trailsnet blog topic.

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    • Paul Johnson December 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

      Rather see Bernie Sanders (S-VT) run for president, myself.

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      • CaptainKarma December 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

        They could flip a coin, pres and vice pres. Get Kucinich in there too somewhere. Call it the Reality Check Party

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    • kurmudgeon00 December 23, 2010 at 10:04 am

      I agree. I interviewed Blumenauer as a journalism student at MHCC more than 30 years ago. (I think he was on the Board). Only politician I’ve ever interviewed that didn’t talk in circular reasoning and add a lot of obvious “spin” to his answers.

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  • Oliver December 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Thank you Congressman Blumenauer.

    Lets see if the local news runs with the rebuttal the way it broadcast the lies by Coburn.

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  • bikieboy December 22, 2010 at 9:41 am

    One possible small correction on the breakdown costs:

    “•Crossing signage for bicycles and pedestrians 1,180 signs – $18,880″

    As this is less than $17 per sign, and an awful lot of crossings, it’s likely supposed to be 118 signs…

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  • Jerry_W December 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Truth that Republicans don’t want you to know, thanks to Blumenauer for getting the facts out, I also hope they get press coverage. Coburn cleverly overlooks waste in how Oklahoma has spent stimulus funds in his paper, right wing television and radio gets lots to blabber about….mission accomplished.

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  • Lance P. December 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m so glad that Blumenauer represents me and my district.

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  • dan December 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Good work Earl B. Unlike Coburn’s initial claim, those costs are totally reasonable…with the exception of $480k for sharrows. Does that seem a little steep to anyone else?

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    • Kt December 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

      Depends– How many sharrows were installed for that price?

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  • matt picio December 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

    dan – That’s about $200 per sharrow. Seems a little steep to me, but there’s probably some buried costs in that which we aren’t seeing. Sharrows only recently have been standardized (Mia Burk talks about it a bit in her book, “Joyride”), so some (perhaps much?) of that cost is systemic – i.e. for the program itself, rather than the installation cost per sharrow.

    If Roger Geller or someone else from PBOT has any details on that and is willing to post them, I’d love to know it.

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    • valkraider December 22, 2010 at 10:14 am

      $200 seems steep?

      Thermoplastic probably isn’t cheap.

      Then there is the labor costs to roll trucks out and melt them onto the pavement. And there are probably a few consumables as well, like cleaners and fuel for the trucks and torches. Labor and consumables are probably the lions share of the cost…

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      • Machu Picchu December 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

        Trucks and crews have to roll out for signs as well as pavement markings. Signs, posts and footings are definitely expensive, so there is a discrepancy somewhere, or yes, $200 seems steep.

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        • Paul Johnson December 23, 2010 at 10:20 am

          You might want to price it out yourself sometime…remember, you can’t really take shortcuts and cheap out on the poles, they have to last for decades. We’re talking something close to Schedule 40 oilfield pipe.

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  • Andrew December 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I’d love to see some media coverage of this, but I think we all know that KATU is too busy setting up a reporter in a chair in an East Portland bike lane to cover relevant facts.

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  • Dave December 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Nice to have the cost breakdown, however wayfinding signs at $20/ea (materials and install) must be an error. Try that x10 per sign installed.

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  • wsbob December 22, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Blumenauer and your staff….nice work. Good on you too maus, for getting the info posted here.

    What’s wrong with that Coburn? Sure, blowing up examples of mis-spending when they occur, as an offensive strategy against opponents is understandable, but something like Coburn has done here with his bleep about ‘such and such amount of money spent on some signs out in Oregon’….getting almost completely wrong, leaves him looking like a nitwit.

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    • Spiffy December 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

      corrections never get on the front page, so his sheep will still follow him…

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  • dan December 22, 2010 at 10:54 am

    valkraider
    $200 seems steep?
    Thermoplastic probably isn’t cheap.
    Then there is the labor costs to roll trucks out and melt them onto the pavement. And there are probably a few consumables as well, like cleaners and fuel for the trucks and torches. Labor and consumables are probably the lions share of the cost…

    $200 apiece feels like it’s in the right ballpark, but did we really need that many? There are multiple sharrows per block on the Lincoln bike boulevard…one per block or one every 2 blocks would have been sufficient. To be honest, I don’t feel like drivers there needed to be reminded that they’re sharing the lane with bicycles: in 5 years of commuting on Lincoln, I haven’t had any significant issues with motorists.

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    • are December 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      per MUTCD, section 9C.07:
      “If used, the Shared Lane Marking should be placed immediately after an intersection and spaced at intervals not greater than 250 feet thereafter.”
      again, PBoT has used these sharrows as in effect wayfinders on sidestreets, rather than for their intended purpose, which is lateral lane positioning on somewhat more heavily traveled streets, but in order to get the stimulus money they had to use something that was at least nominally MUTCD compliant.

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    • Alex Reed December 22, 2010 at 2:45 pm

      Personally, I think *more* sharrows would have been better, at least at places where you need to make a turn in order to stay on the bike boulevard / neighborhood greenway / whatever street.

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  • Tacoma December 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

    One annoying aspect of this is that it takes so little effort to publish inaccurate information for the sensational “sound bite” (Coburn) but much more effort to produce accurate information for the correction (Blumenauer). Cheers to Blumenauer for the effort.

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  • spare_wheel December 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

    “in 5 years of commuting on Lincoln, I haven’t had any significant issues with motorists”

    drivers routinely have fits when i refuse to let them pass while descending at or above the *posted* speed limit.

    “I don’t feel like drivers there needed to be reminded that they’re sharing the lane with bicycles”

    i don’t understand this kind of diffidence.
    i want drivers to be reminded that they’re sharing the lane as often as possible.

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    • dan December 22, 2010 at 11:57 am

      To clarify, in my experience, motorists’ behavior has not been such that I feel they are unaware of/unready to share the road with bikes on the Lincoln bike corridor.

      I don’t know how a bicyclist could stop a car from passing on the downhill: even if you ride in the middle of the lane, they can still get around. I would not hug parked cars to let a motorist around if there was also oncoming traffic, but if it’s just parked car, bicycle, and overtaking motorist, there’s plenty of room to go around.

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      • spare_wheel December 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm

        i hug the middle on salmon and clinton. this also works for upper lincoln.

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  • JM December 22, 2010 at 11:51 am

    You go Earl!!

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  • single track December 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

    2nd that, go EARL, Thanks for Representing!

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  • dan December 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I guess my point is that more sharrows (where there were already some on the road) doesn’t seem like the best use of money from a “injury reduction per $” viewpoint. I would have liked to see some of that $480k spent on putting barriers between bikes and cars on the Hawthorne Bridge. I have had one or two hair-raising experiences heading eastbound.

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  • Ted Diamond December 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    You’d THINK that Oklahomans, now free from worrying about sharia law, would have time to investigate these issues a little more carefully.

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    • Paul Johnson December 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm

      One thing that most folks missed about State Question 755 is that, while it was heavily advertised on the whole Sharia/international law thing, is that it also covers treaties. This was really a pretty good attempt at screwing over the Indian nations that comprise the vast majority of Oklahoma’s territory.

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  • davemess December 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Especially since they all only speak the Queen’s English now, too!

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  • joe adamski December 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Don’t confuse Coburn with facts,it makes a better soundbite for Faux Nooz to mistate the facts. Blumenauers reply might be more factual, but undoubtedly will never be heard beyond Oregon.

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    • Tacoma December 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      True dat!

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  • Jerry_W December 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Right, Fox News will report Coburn’s report for days, I’m sure they will not find Blumenauer necessary to report or comment on. That is their definition of “fair and balanced”. The sheep will lap it up,…. suckers.

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  • Daniel Evans December 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Funny how “Dr.” Coburn’s report doesn’t mention ANY waste in defense spending. What a crock.

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  • Mark Kenseth December 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Is there an update on the pictures being stolen?

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  • Todd Boulanger December 23, 2010 at 11:57 am

    The posted figure for installing thermo sharrows looks reasonable given historical costs I have seen before – thermo stencils cost most of that $200. They are worth the cost given their 3 to 5 year life span vs 1 year painted stencil life span. (This is one of the hidden costs of studded tire use in our community.)

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  • mh December 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Keep it up, Earl. And sharrows as they were mostly placed in this project are pretty redundant, but they’re definitely graphically better than the earlier tiny stencils. Too bad I mostly see them on bike boulevards where we’re not being threatened (much).

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  • JonM December 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Still wondering why residents in MI are paying for bike signage in OR?? That’s where Coburn is aiming.

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    • Paul Johnson December 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      If Coburn’s asking for a multilateral division of the US, then he better be careful what he wishes for: The tribes won’t hesitate to leave Oklahoma entirely under such a division, and Oklahoma would be on it’s own to rebuilt the snarl of highways it has. Otherwise, we’re all in this together. A better question is why Coburn’s giving California carte blanche in his criticisms.

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    • Lents Guy December 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

      Well the reverse is true – why are my tax dollars being spent on projects anywhere else other than Portland Oregon? I can easily answer that with a very positive answer and it has to do with benefiting the ‘commons’

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  • Evan Manvel December 27, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    $130,000,000 spent already on planning the CRC – another $3,870,000,000+ to come, and Coburn is poking at $900,000? Sigh.

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  • Brian December 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me that way the Portland ultra-left wingers can spin anything. This is a waste of money, period. After all, we can’t get the potholes in our roads repaired, fix decrepit bridges, etc. And the so-called “liberals” and “progressives” spend most of their time dreaming up new excuses to close local schools and bus kids further and further. I’m curious if they have a plan for how they plan to pay Russia and China back the $900k the federal government had to borrow to do this. Not likely… It’s always someone else’s responsibility.

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    • Greg December 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm

      Hi Brian. Thanks for injecting some humor into the discussion.

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