Harvest Century September 22nd

OTC delays funding decision, shows “cautious willingness” to consider non-highway projects

Posted by on February 20th, 2009 at 10:29 am

“[The OTC showed a] cautious willingness to consider the possibility that local bike, pedestrian and transit projects might just be as “shovel ready” as ODOT’s existing list.”
— Bob Stacey, 1000 Friends of Oregon

The Governor-appointed Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) was set to make a decision on how Oregon would spend it’s federal economic stimulus money this week. However, after hearing concerns from Metro and a new coalition calling themselves Transportation for Oregon’s Future, the OTC has decided to delay their decision until Friday of next week.

That information comes from Bob Stacey, executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon. Stacey was in Salem for the OTC meeting on Wednesday. Joining Stacey was Metro councilor Rex Burkholder. Also at the meeting was Karl Rohde from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Both Stacey and Burkholder have written letters expressing their concerns that the OTC and the Oregon Department of Transportation were hurrying into approval of a project list that leaned too far in favor of highway paving projects — at the exclusion of more multi-modal projects.

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According to Stacey, the OTC also delayed their decisions because of at least one lawmaker who agreed that the state should “take time to hear additional perspectives”. Stacey says Senator Bruce Starr — who is also the vice-chair of the Senate Transportation Commission — wants to hold a legislative hearing on how the stimulus money should be distributed.

The key factor in these project decisions appears to be whether or not they are “shovel ready”. In an email to me yesterday, Stacey characterized the OTC’s delay as reflecting a “cautious willingness to consider the possibility that local bike, pedestrian and transit projects might just be as “shovel ready” as ODOT’s existing list.”

At the crux of that “cautious willingness” is the promise from Stacey that a list of $20 million in bike projects has been compiled by the BTA and ODOT. Unfortunately, Stacey was unable to produce that list when OTC Chair Gail Achterman asked him about it at Wednesday’s meeting. Now, the BTA and ODOT’s bike coordinator Sheila Lyons are putting that list together and plan to forward it to the OTC in advance of Friday’s meeting.

I spoke with Karl Rohde (government affairs director for the BTA) yesterday to get his sense of where this conversation is headed. He thinks the OTC is “interested in knowing more about these projects (the bike/ped/transit ones) so they can make a decision based on some solid facts.”

Rohde confirmed that the $20 million list Stacey referred to is a “rough list” compiled by ODOT’s Pat Fisher (she manages their Transportation Enhancements program) and bike/ped program manager Sheila Lyons. The list contains bike and ped projects that have been applied for in the past but have never been funded.

In preparation for Friday’s meeting, Stacey says he’s emailed the general managers from Oregon’s three largest transit agencies (TriMet, Lane Transit, and Salem’s Cherriots) to submit their projects directly to the OTC. Stacey is also hitting the web and the streets to get the public involved. He’ll be sending email alerts (with assistance from Onward Oregon) and he plans to start a postcard signing campaign at transit stops and cycling hot spots this coming week.

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10 Comments
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    frank February 20, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Who should we call/e-mail in Salem to support bike projects?

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    cyclist February 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I wonder why the BTA is only now putting this list together, they should have known the stimulus legislation was coming in mid-February, and they also should have known that the project needed to be “shovel ready.” They should have had a list of projects assembled and ready to hand over to the state as soon as the legislation passed. What happened?

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    carless in pdx February 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Actually, only half of the projects a state funds need to be “shovel ready.” When they passed the stimulus bill they change the requirement.

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    Jessica Roberts February 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    It does seem like the handwriting was on the wall and this list should have been in hand already.

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    cyclist February 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Jonathan:

    Do you think you could ask someone at the BTA why they didn’t have this list ready prior to the passage of the stimulus package? It’s fortunate that OTC has decided to hold up the process to wait for a list, but the potential still exists that we’re going to lose out because the BTA wasn’t prepared.

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    Surlycycler February 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    The BTA does have an advocacy section with a document download called: Blueprint for Better Biking. It’s a great resource, but unfortunately it does not have projected budget expenses… However, it could be of some help.

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    Scott Bricker, BTA February 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Please see the BTA website, http://www.bta4bikes.org/, for the list that we compiled. It is a sample list and it includes $40 million of projects that are ODOT reported were local projects that were submitted as applications to their Transportation Enhancements and Bike-Ped funding programs and did not receive money or full funding. While I have not received these lists from ODOT I am very certain that there is overlap with the rest of the sample list that we compiled.

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    Todd B February 21, 2009 at 6:35 am

    Bicyclists and pedestrians…to the coffee shops and bridges for a petition signing effort!!! STAT!

    (How about during next week’s BonB?)

    Bike parking infill (in street) city wide would be a great stimulus effort at the neighborhood level in community commercial zones and at transit: mixing steel fabrication, concrete work, flagging, etc.

    And spot intersection upgrades with bike crossing treatments : push buttons, bike traffic signals, duratherm coloured lanes, etc.

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    Tara February 23, 2009 at 9:37 am

    On the note of how to take action on this important issue, 1000 Friends of Oregon has organized an online and grassroots field effort to urge the Governor to allocate federal stimulus dollars to bike, transit, and pedestrian infrastructure.

    The Oregon Transportation Commission makes a decision about the allocation of these funds ON FRIDAY so we only have until Thursday to build support on this issue.

    If you are interested in hitting the streets (or coffee shops, or Transit centers!) today, Tuesday or Wednesday – we’ve organized a postcard campaign to get the word out. Please contact Tara (at) friends.org if you would like to help out ASAP.

    Check out the Action Alert we sent last week below:

    1000 Friends Action Alert: http://www.friends.org/luu_online?luu_issue=/sites/friends.org/files/luu_021809.html

    Send a message to the Governor: http://www.friends.org/issues/transportation

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    Scott Mizée March 2, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    carless in pdx:

    Actually, only half of the projects a state funds need to be “shovel ready.” When they passed the stimulus bill they change the requirement.

    I’m trying to find more information about this statement. We are still being told that all projects need to be “shovel-ready.” Do you know where I can find the text that says only half of the projects need to be “shovel ready?”

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