The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation has applied for over $36 million in state transportation grants. The grants are administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) through their 2015-2018 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). PBOT’s list (PDF) includes 16 projects, many of which are crucial for improving bicycle access throughout the Portland metro region.
See highlights from the list below, followed by my comments and more analysis of the STIP process:
- $1.7 million to construct a segment of the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail where it passes under I-205. This segment of the trail is a key connection at its eastern terminus where it intersects with the existing I-205 path (more background in our recap of a project open house last year). It’s interesting that PBOT wants to build a different segment than the one they applied for a federal grant for back in 2011.
- $1.5 million for a traffic signal at Broadway and Wheeler: This project is relatively new and it emerged through discussions about right-hooks and other traffic safety issues at this now infamous intersection. This application is a huge victory for citizen activist Betsy Reese, who has pushed for this signal through her membership on the N/NE Quadrant I-5 Stakeholder Advisory Committee. PBOT’s willingness to apply for these funds shows they are committed to this intersection and they are not willing to wait for funding of the larger N/NE Quadrant plan before making it happen.
- $5 million for “Complete, Safe Networks”: I haven’t seen the details on this project, but based on PBOT description it would be a catch-all grant to fix biking and walking safety gaps in the system.
- $3.5 million for “Cully Connection”: This project would improve sidewalks and add a buffered bike lane on NE Killingsworth from NE 42nd to 72nd. This would be a fantastic and much-needed connection between PBOT’s neighborhood greenway on N. Holman near Fernhill Park to the new cycle track on NE Cully Blvd.
- $1.5 million for the N Williams Traffic Safety Project: This project increased significantly in price after it morphed from an inexpensive bike lane project into a more robust safety project. The main expense is a new traffic signal at N. Cook which was deemed a major priority by the stakeholder advisory committee.
- $1 million for the Red Electric Trail: This project would focus on safe routes to school connections in the southwest hills near Alpenrose Dairy.
- $500,000 for Safe Routes to School safety education programming.
- $400,000 for a SmartTrips marketing campaign focused around the new Portland to Milwaukie light rail line. This is noteworthy because PBOT has just proposed a major cutback to this program from their budget. It’s a risky move to rely on grants for an ongoing program like SmartTrips, so expect a lot of hand-wringing and nervousness from inside PBOT if this grant doesn’t come through.
- $225,000 for planning and design of the South Waterfront Greenway. As we reported back in March, the City has already started this project, but it has stalled due to a lack of funds.
- $2 million for the Barbur Demonstration Project: This project would focus mainly on making it easier to walk across SW Barbur Blvd between SW 19th and 26th Avenues — improvements which were identified in the 1999 Barbur Streescape Plan. While not bike-specific, anything that tames traffic on SW Barbur is a good thing for bike access.
- $1.5 million for a host of safety improvements in Southwest Portland as identified in the 2030 Bike Plan.
Other notable projects on the list are $2.5 million for the Foster Road Safety Project and $1.3 million for “roadway reorganization” of SE Division between 50th and 80th. Both of these projects should/could include major bikeways on these key arterials.
These grant applications are the first in ODOT’s “Enhance” fund, which is a new method of awarding STIP funding. Enhance is one of two pots of STIP funds (the other is “Fix-it”) and has $227 million up for grabs. Local governments and other agencies across the entire state will be competing for this money.
In our region, Region 1 (which includes Multnomah, Hood River, and Clackamas counties, and most of Washington county), we’ll get a sub-allocation of $64.8 million. Out of that, $22 million is expected to flow into Portland. Fighting for that $22 million is not just PBOT projects, but also projects from TriMet, the Portland of Portland, and other agencies. A source at PBOT estimates they’ll ultimately be awarded about $10-15 million total from the STIP.
Making things even more interesting are the serious concerns from inside PBOT and from advocates like the Bicycle Transportation Alliance about how the STIP projects will be awarded. Unlike years past, ODOT has created an entirely new process for picking which projects will get funded. Metro’s JPACT committee used to vet regional projects, but now a new committee with four representatives from each county in Region 1 will make the decisions. This means sparsely populated counties with much different perspectives and priorities than Multnomah will have equal decision-making power at the table.
On the 17 member selection committee (see the list below), the City of Portland will have only one representative, the mayor. If PBOT wants a champion for their projects, the mayor’s voice must be strong around the table.
In addition to the concerns about the STIP selection committee, there are grave concerns that ODOT has eliminated the objective evaluation methods previously used to score and rank projects. This gives the selection committee a tremendous amount of power. “The rules are kind of loose,” said one PBOT staffer at a recent meeting.
Also worth remembering is how the new STIP selection process mirrors the federal guidelines under the new MAP-21 bill. Like MAP-21, ODOT has eliminated dedicated funding streams for specific projects and programs — like safe routes to schools or trail projects — in the STIP. While a lack of dedicated funding makes some people nervous, it also means those project types can compete for much larger sums than ever before. However, they are now competing against highway “modernization” and public transit projects. The big question is, given the selection process, will a bike-centric project be able to compete with more traditional highway projects without objective evaluation criteria and with committee members from parts of the state where biking isn’t on the radar?
Keep in mind, these applications are for projects that would be funded and constructed beginning in 2015. That means we won’t even get a final decision on awards until November 2014.
Region 1 2015-2018 STIP Project Selection Committee
Jason Tell – ODOT, Region 1 Manager
Bill Wyatt – Portland of Portland, Executive Director
Sam Adams – City of Portland, Mayor
Neil Mcfarlane – TriMet, GM
Carlotta Collette – Metro Councilor, Chair of JPACT
Washington County Reps:
Roy Rogers – Washington County Commissioner
Monique Beikman – City of Tualatin, Councilor
Philip Wu – Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute, Clinical Pediatric Lead
David Mills – Kittelson & Associations, Portland Office Manager
Clackamas County Reps:
Jamie Damon – Clackamas County Commissioner
Donna Jordan – City of Lake Oswego, Councilor
Joel Halloran – Fred Meyer, Director of Transportation/Traffic
Stephan Lashbrook – Wilsonville Transit Director
Hood River County Reps:
Ron Rivers – Hood River County Commission, Chair
Kate McBride – City of Hood River, Councilor
Fred Duckwall – Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Company, President
Dave Winsor – Cardinal Glass Industries, Hood River Plant Manager
Multnomah County Reps:
Diane McKeel – Multnomah County Commissioner
Shane Bemis – City of Gresham, Mayor
Barbara Ramirez Spencer – Consultant in Leadership and Organizational Development
Kenneth Tracy – Boeing Company, Transportation Analyst