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Oregon’s bicycle and pedestrian committee says ‘think big’

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

[This article was written by Daniel Ronan, the student representative on the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.]

Jerry Norquist is Chair of the Oregon
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) is mentioned frequently here on BikePortland, but did you know that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) also has an advisory committee that deals with bicycling projects and issues?

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC) is an eight member, governor appointed committee that serves as the intermediary body between the public and ODOT, via the Oregon Transportation Commission. The group meets quarterly in communities statewide.

Jerry Norquist, Executive Director of Cycle Oregon, serves as the committee chair. The committee also includes representatives from local government, Oregon Recreational Trails, the environmental community, youth, and three at large members.

OBPAC’s largest task is the administration of its biannual $5 million grant program (applications are due July 9th!). Grants are awarded to communities across Oregon to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects within the public right of way. The program has benefited communities as small as Vale, Oregon as well as Portland.

[Publisher’s note: At their monthly meeting tonight (6pm at the Lovejoy Room in City Hall), the CIty of Portland BAC will discuss how to select one local project for this grant program.]

For the 2012-2013 grant cycle, OBPAC has encouraged applicants, comprising cities and counties, to “think big” in the size of their project proposals.

The committee has also collaborated with ODOT in how best to distribute the first ever allocation of $1 million from the Urban Trail Fund. The fund, a part of House Bill 2001 from last year’s legislative session, works to create multi-use trails outside of the public right of way. Presenters from various governmental organizations, including ODOT, Oregon Parks and Recreation, and Metro inform the committee on transportation policy matters.

For the 2012-2013 grant cycle, OBPAC has encouraged applicants, comprising cities and counties, to “think big” in the size of their project proposals. In the past, the committee allocated smaller and more numerous grants, reflecting the group’s desire to fund wide-ranging projects in communities both large and small.

Given Ray LaHood’s recent announcement of a “sea change” in the nation’s transportation policy, setting walking and biking as equal to motor vehicle travel, the committee has expressed desire to fund larger projects in addition to smaller projects. (The committee sent a letter of thanks to LaHood at the beginning of May.) These larger projects, known as “signature projects,” as spelled out in the grant letter, “must provide community wide impacts, demonstrate that walking and bicycling can make significant contributions to our transportation needs and must include the highest quality design elements.”

Criteria for grading signature projects will consist of documentation in local plans, how much the project gives parity to walking and biking with motor vehicle travel, the level of design innovation and the demonstration of community commitment to walking and biking. In addition, OBPAC has set goals for reviewing and awarding grants which include: establishing a legacy, providing quality biking or walking experiences, accounting for need, connecting transportation systems, and enhancing livability or economic development.

The committee hopes to establish more details on the grant at their next meeting on May 20th and 21st in Klamath Falls (ODOT Offices, 2557 Altamont Dr.). Grants for the 2012-2013 grant cycle will be awarded sometime in October 2010. OBPAC welcomes and encourages citizens to attend its meetings and speak to the committee during the public comment period. Meeting agendas and documents are located on OBPAC’s website.

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