“Due to continued declining transportation revenues, the County has decided not replace that transportation planning staff position in the near future. Regrettably, a consequence is that we are unable to staff the Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee, and it will be suspended until further notification.”
— Jane McFarland, Multnomah County Tranportation Planner in an email to committee members
Members of the Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee were surprised this weekend when they received an email saying the committee will be “suspended until further notification”.
The email came from the county’s principal transportation planner Jane McFarland. McFarland wrote that “due to declining transportation revenues” Multnomah County has no plans to replace their recently departed bike/ped coordinator Jennifer Dederich and that, “regrettably, a consequence is that we are unable to staff the Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizen Advisory Committee…”
McFarland assured committee members that the County will “continue planning, constructing and maintaining bicycle and pedestrian facilities.”
Multnomah County plays an important role in Portland’s bikeway network because they have jurisdiction over six Willamette River crossings including the Hawthorne, Broadway, Burnside, Morrison, Sauvie Island and Sellwood bridges.
our Get Together event last month, was
an active member of the committee.
(Also shown are Officer Robert Pickett
(center) and PSU’s Ian Stude (R).
(Photos © J. Maus)
McFarland noted that the suspension of the committee will be temporary, but some members say they are very concerned at what this means to the County’s involvement with the community about important bicycle and pedestrian issues.
One committee member, who wanted to remain anonymous, wrote via email that, “Some of the committee members are not especially pleased with how this has been handled and are concerned that the County might be using this as an excuse not to dedicate resources to bike/ped issues.”
Committee member Andrew Holtz told me this morning that he thinks this is “a terrible idea”. “I know things are tight,” he said, “but it seems like closing off this avenue of public input is not a good idea.” Holtz said he (and other citizen members) have put in a lot of volunteer time to work on the committee and he is disappointed in the news. “To have them say, ‘gosh, we just don’t have time for you anymore’…I took it as a personal insult.”
Another member of the committee, Matt Picio, also said he is disappointed. He told me that none of the committee members were notified that the dissolution of the committee was even being considered. Picio says that “If the county dissolves the committee, it will reduce public impact on county bike projects by eliminating their only official and recurring interface to the public on bicycle and pedestrian matters.”
“It disturbs me,” continued Picio, “that the committee is being shelved when key decisions regarding the Sellwood Bridge have yet to be made.”
on several downtown bridges. They
were behind these pavement markings
on the Hawthorne.
Picio also thinks McFarland should “call a spade a spade”. He thinks the county isn’t “unable” (as they say) to staff the committee, but that they’re “unwilling to do so”. He points to other County transportation employees and says that, they have “apparently determined that staffing the BPCAC is not a priority at this time with the staff hours and financial resources they have at hand.” Picio thinks while this may be a valid decision, saying they are “unable” to staff it is “disingenuous.”
In defense of the committee, Holtz says he doesn’t think the County has the legal right to shut it down. He points out that the committee was established by Multnomah County Code that specifically states the Transportation Division “provides technical and clerical support for the Committee.” According to Holtz, “Unless the County Commission reverses this code, they have to find a way to help support the committee.”
Holtz says the committee is “a valuable way for the transportation division to have an ongoing interaction with the larger community.”
The committee used to meet once a month for two hours to review bike/ped projects in the pipeline, weigh in on project priority lists, and other tasks. “We rarely finish our meetings early,” says Holtz, “there was always a lot for us to do.”
Current projects that the committee was working on include the bike and ped improvements on the Morrison Bridge (currently under construction) and a conceptual design planning project for new bike and pedestrian facilities on Scholls Ferry Road.
We’ll have more on this story soon. We have a call into Jane McFarland but have not heard back yet.