BikePortland.org

Landmark decision gives bike projects regional funding priority


“What this does is elevate bikes and peds as important and meaningful modes.”
–ODOT Government Liaison Shelli Romero

The wheels of change continue to spin toward a more balanced transportation system in our region.

Yesterday, Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT), for the first time ever, voted unanimously to put bicycle and pedestrian projects at the front of the line to receive funding through a major federal funding allocation process.

The vote came at a meeting of JPACT at Metro headquarters, where committee members began the process of deciding how to allocate the nearly $60 million in federal funding that is awarded to our region every two years as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP).

“There is a real sea change in the thinking about transportation at Metro. Bicycling is now a part of virtually every element.”
–Former JPACT member and now BTA Government Relations Director, Karl Rohde

At the outset of the MTIP process, JPACT members collectively decide which projects, or types of projects, should be positioned for funding “off the top” — meaning certain projects will receive a guaranteed amount of MTIP money and they won’t have to compete for funding with other projects.

The competition for MTIP funding is fierce. Bike projects usually go head-to-head with much more expensive and “regionally significant” highway projects, so given priority status before the slugfest even begins is considered to be a very big deal. All other projects go into a pot and then are ranked by JPACT on a number of criteria before receiving funds.

ODOT Government Liaison Shelli Romero says typically the projects given “off the top” status are things like transit projects and specific Metro programs but this recent vote shows that, ODOT and other regional decision makers have, “Recognized that bike and ped projects have significant regional benefit.” “In my mind,” says Romero, “what this does is elevate bikes and peds as important and meaningful modes.”

ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell,
seen here at a Safe Routes to
School event in Southeast Portland,
was instrumental in the decision.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Romero says the idea to prioritize bike and ped projects was first floated by ODOT Region 1 Manager Jason Tell a few weeks ago. When the motion came up for vote yesterday it was seconded Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers (imagine that folks, an ODOT guy and a Washington County guy supporting bike and ped projects!).

Karl Rohde of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is a former member of JPACT and he broke the news on the BTA blog. He called the decision a “milestone” and noted that, “there is a real sea change in the thinking about transportation at Metro. Bicycling is now a part of virtually every element.”

Rohde gives much of the credit for this change to ODOT’s Jason Tell. Tell seems to be just one of many bright spots at ODOT recently. I had a chance to sit and chat with him for a few minutes at a recent Safe Routes to School event and I came away very encouraged about what his leadership could mean for ODOT’s recognition of bikes in the transportation mix.

Now, JPACT members will re-convene and begin to decide just how much of the MTIP funds to allocate to bike and ped projects.

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