“What went wrong?… The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money.”
— excerpt from a statement set to go out to supporters of Transportation for Oregon’s Future
Transportation for Oregon’s Future — a “network of organizations and businesses supporting transportation choices for the 21st Century” — is not happy with the decisions made by ODOT’s Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on how to spend Oregon’s initial, $122 million chunk of federal stimulus funds.
As we reported this morning, the OTC decided last week to fund just one bike/ped project (valued at $2.5 million) out of 30 total projects and they did not fund a single transit project.
Bob Stacey is the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon and he’s working on the Transportation for Oregon’s Future effort. He is disappointed in the OTC’s decision and he’s already planning a course of action. He gave me a sneak peek at the email he plans to send out to supporters (1,300 of them wrote to Governor Kulongoski about this issue in just a few days).
In that email, his group explains how the OTC “cut all but one of the bike and pedestrian projects” that had been on the initial list and how they “refused to put a single transit project on the list.” The email also points out that the share of road widening projects increased from “less than a quarter to more than one-third of total spending” (at the expense of cuts to road and bridge repair).
And here’s how Stacey’s group explains what might have happened (emphasis mine):
“What went wrong? Our voices were not the only ones raised. The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money. It responded by reducing the size of its project approval list (from $191 million down to $122 million), and gave itself until mid-March to consider how to spend the balance and take additional input. This would have been a good step, except that the Commission cut only bike, pedestrian, transit, and road repair projects to get there.
Stacey says now they’ll work to restore “good projects”, get transit and more bike/ped projects onto the list and “keep the road widening off the next list.”
UPDATE: I spoke with an ODOT spokesperson today. They’ll be releasing info on an application process tomorrow to help them select the next round of projects to be funded by the remaining $100 million in stimulus funds.