“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).