Priorities and promises: How will bikes fare in the Mayor’s budget?

Platinum Press Conference-14.jpg
Will he deliver a Platinum budget?
(Photos © J. Maus)

Right now in City Hall, Mayor Adams and his staff are getting set to release their transportation budget.

When the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) released their budget back in February, it was embarrassingly bad for bikes. There was no dedicated revenue for bike projects, one-time funding for the Transportation Options Division (which funds Safe Routes to Schools among other things) was reduced 40%, and there was no guarantee to fund new bike boulevards (eventually, PBOT Director Sue Keil found $178,000 for the boulevards).

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How did this happen? Aren’t we “America’s #1 Cycling City?”

PBOT Director Sue Keil says she crafted the budget directly from priorities that were set by two things: an internal PBOT ranking and recommendations by the Transportation Budget Advisory Committee. The BAC was 13-member group that met eight times since July 2008.

The BAC — which included former BTA Government Affairs Director Karl Rohde (who was unfortunately unable to make some of the meetings due to his lobbying commitments in Salem) — endorsed PBOT’s budget and decided the top priority should be “street preservation” (i.e. paving arterial streets). The result of that is $5 million in PBOT’s budget for paving major streets (which streets will be paved is unknown by PBOT at this point).

Keil showed me a list of 66 transportation priorities and pointed out that the first bike-related project/program didn’t come in until 28th position. It was as if this list proved her point that bikes just weren’t a priority for the city this time around.

With disappointment from PBOT, thoughts now turn to the Mayor’s budget. Keil told me during our meeting that she didn’t expect the Mayor’s budget would be much different.

That puts Adams in a tough position. If his budget places as low of a priority on bikes as PBOT’s, he’ll be under fire from many who voted for him based on their hope that he would create a more bike-friendly — and less car-centric — city.

On the campaign trail, Adams repeatedly stated that funding for bikes, currently at a paltry 0.7% of PBOT’s capital budget, “should match utilitization” (which would be more like 5-8% depending on who you ask). He also told the Willamette Week in December 2007 that he would “triple bike funding” if elected.

When I asked Adams’ Transportation Policy Director Catherine Ciarlo about his statements to the Willamette Week, she was a bit less bold, saying only that, “He’d like to see us move in that direction”.

Of course, Adams’ bold statements about bike funding were made before the financial meltdown and before the Beau Breedlove incident dramatically altered his political trajectory.

I think it’s safe to say the Mayor’s budget won’t triple bike funding, but it will almost certainly be more bike-friendly than PBOT’s. At least I hope it is.

Stay tuned…

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