Evolution in action: ODOT combines application process for $20 million in funds

“Typically project scopes of work are influenced by the funding stream. This does not always lead to the best solution to the problem.”

We’ve been reporting on an evolution away from a freeway-first mentality and toward a mode-neutral approach that’s been taking place at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) over the past year or so. Today, the agency announced a big step in that evolution.

For the first time ever, ODOT has combined the application process for two of their largest pots of non-motorized funds: the federal Transportation Enhancements program and the state-funded Bicycle & Pedestrian grant program (which is awarded by the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC)). The combined amount available through this process is $20 million ($15 million from TE and $5 million from the bike/ped program).

Both of these programs are now housed in ODOT’s recently formed Active Transportation Section and combining the application process is a clear sign that tangible changes are happening.

Why combine this process? ODOT says the goal is, “creating efficiencies and maximizing available funding” and that it fits withing their, “larger vision of strategic and integrated investment of transportation funds.”

Here’s more from ODOT:

The Oregon Department of Transportation is evolving… ODOT is seeking to develop SOLUTION driven projects. Typically project scopes of work are influenced by the funding stream. This does not always lead to the best solution to the problem.

In this case, the federal process for garnering TE funds has long been a hassle for smaller projects and the red tape has made it difficult for some agencies to compete. And state gas tax dollars (which fund the OBPAC grants) are legislatively constrained and cannot be used “outside of a street right-of-way.” ODOT says this new combined selection process has been, “designed to address these issues.”

“By having one application and a two stage application process,” says ODOT, “our goal is to eliminate the need for applicants to sort those details out. Tell us your problem, propose a solution, we’ll provide the assistance needed to identify the appropriate funding and to develop an effective, technically sound and deliverable project.”

Not only does this combined process offer efficiencies at ODOT and an easier route to funding for applicants, it opens up each individual project to a larger overall funding award because selected projects are eligible for funding from both pots.

Some of the projects ODOT is looking to fund include:

“…bicycle and pedestrian facilities within or outside a street right-of-way, such as sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, intersection improvements, streetscapes, bike boulevards, minor roadway widening for bikeways, and shared-use paths within or separate from a roadway corridor.”

This is a positive step for ODOT and for building a more balanced transportation system in Oregon. Stay tuned for more developments (still working on my interview with ODOT Director Matt Garrett).

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10 years ago

One of the first things that comes to mind during this process, call me a skeptic, is that this does not represent an increase in overall funding yet it is being sold as an improvement. Administrative efficiencies are fine but we have millions of dollars of bike projects going un-funded across the state. Simply look at the application list and award list from the ODOT Flex Fund program for a sense of how much unmet demand is out there: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TP/FlexFunds.shtml

So, this is fine as far as it goes and I welcome ODOT’s efforts to improve their approach as a multi-modal transportation agency. I think advocates should remain vigilant about the overall amount of money we are spending on bike projects and stay focused on increasing that total dollar figure.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Gerik

Yes Gerik, that’s a great point to keep in mind. And I agree with you. I asked Garrett about that in my interview and if I recall, the answer wasn’t exactly direct, but he did claim that eventually, overall funding will go up. I believe ODOT is headed in that direction (more overall pie slice for biking), but yes, vigilance needed!

10 years ago

Garrett referred to something like this at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit last week – glad to see the follow-through.

10 years ago

“And state gas tax dollars (which fund the OBPAC grants) are legislatively constrained to being used only “outside of a street right-of-way.”

Jonathan, something’s askew with this passage. They can only be used IN the street r-o-w.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Jeff

Thanks Jeff. Fixed it. My mistake.

Jeffrey Bernards
10 years ago

This is one of the reasons for our Ban Studded Tire Initiative. ODOT is starting to spend money on projects other than strictly roads. Saving money may be one of our best sources of “new” money, for projects we all want to see happen. The CRC won’t help by taking $600 + million from our states budget. Think how much that could do in repairing our current road infrastructure and adding new bike infrastructure.