the dark on the I-205 bike path.
(Photo © J. Maus)
On Friday, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC, a body appointed by Governor Kulongoski) made their final decisions on how to spend $122,592,742 in federal stimulus funds. And, if you remember our report from last week, it seems like their “cautious willingness” to consider non-highway projects turned out to be more cautious than willingness.
Just $2.5 million (2% of the total) of that money will go toward bike and pedestrian projects — or should I write project (without the “s”). Of the 30 or so projects given the green light by the OTC, just one of them is labeled as “Pedestrian/Bicycle”. That project will “Improve and illuminate the I-205 bike and ped path north of Gladstone”.
That’s good news if you ride on the I-205 bike path, but if you were looking for Oregon to put stimulus funds to use on bike-specific projects (like Metro and other groups were), you’re sure to be disappointed.
“…in an “emergency” situation like the stimulus package, a lot of road projects are ready to go but bike/ped and transit aren’t.”
— Karl Rohde, Bicycle Transportation Alliance
Why are bike/ped projects only 2% of the total infrastructure stimulus funding? I asked Karl Rohde from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (he’s their man down in Salem) that same question. Here’s one reason he gave:
“One of the biggest problems we’ve run into is the same one that transit runs into, whereas road projects can be planned and designed up to the point of construction, bike/ped (and transit) often needs to prove funding before they can proceed to construction design phase. So in an “emergency” situation like the stimulus package, a lot of road projects are ready to go but bike/ped and transit aren’t.”
Rohde also shared that projects in the “preservation” category took the lion’s share of the money (about $60 million). Preservation is bureaucrat-speak for “paving”, and, as we found out with the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation’s budget last week, paving is the hot thing right now.
Paving is definitely important and, “Roads are constant need of preservation,” explained Rohde. But on the other hand, he said, “Bike/ped and transit projects don’t need much continuing preservation once they are built. That’s what makes them so much more cost effective than roads.”
On the bright side, the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program (another federal pot of money doled out by ODOT), is looking nice and full this year. TE is only for non-motorized vehicle projects and Rohde says Oregon could potentially have about $40 million to spend on them. Of course, Oregon also has a history of sending that money back to the feds because it doesn’t get spent in time.
All this leads Rohde to dream: “I would like to see us get to a point where we have a bunch of bike/ped projects designed and ready to go to contract, sitting on the shelf waiting for these miracle pots of money. (Although, I’m doubtful we will ever see another stimulus package the likes of what we are seeing today.) ”