could finally get funded.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is zeroing in on a list of projects they hope to get funded with a special pot of state Lottery-backed funds and it looks like bike share might be in the running.
Thanks to a change in the law this past legislative session, bicycling (and walking) projects are now eligible for funding through the Oregon Department of Transportation’s ConnectOregon program. Prior to this coming round of funding, the ConnectOregon program was open only to air, marine, rail, and public transit projects.
But this time around, due to the work of advocates and a concerted push by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, bicycling and walking projects can finally compete for a piece of this $42 million pie.
At the monthly meeting of PBOT’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last week, Active Transportation Division Manager Dan Bower revealed several potential projects that might make the final application. So far, the likely candidates include: An expansion of bike share into neighborhoods outside the central city; an “auto transit stop” system for streetcars, which is a safety device used if an operator has a heart attack (and it’s required if streetcar ever uses TriMet’s forthcoming Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail bridge); and a new multi-use path that would be part of the South Waterfront Greenway project.
The bike share project sounds promising; but of course the first phase of the project is still yet to launch due to a lack of corporate sponsorship. As for the path in South Waterfront, this would be part of an ongoing project that is completely rebuilding a section of the riverbank along the Willamette River. The path portion of the project has been stalled since March 2012 due to a $2 million funding gap needed to pave a three-block section of riverbank.
Keep in mind, there are strict criteria to determine what types of projects can qualify for this funding source. They must not be eligible for gas tax monies, they have to be outside of the highway right-of-way, and paths that are parallel to major roads are not eligible. Also, because these funds come from Lottery-backed bonds, every project selected must have a significant statewide economic impact. Bower said he’s currently evaluating project ideas from the City’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
Once PBOT finalizes their list, the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will rank each of the biking and walking projects. Then all the projects (including airport, marine, and so on) will be thrown together into a pool and each ODOT region will make a recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission.
Applications are due by mid-November and the money will be available by next fall. This process will be an interesting test to see if bicycling and walking projects can compete head-to-head with port, marine, and rail projects on economic impact merits.
If you have feedback for PBOT about the projects above, or ideas for other projects you’d like to see funded, leave a comment and/or contact Bower at dan.bower[at]portlandoregon.gov.