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PBOT eyes “transformative” projects with influx of new funding

Posted by on November 21st, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Map detail of PBOT’s $79.5 million transportation project investment strategy.

For the first time in decades, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has money to spend. Real money.

The typically cash-strapped agency has seen its fortunes take a major turn thanks to a combination of new funding sources: There’s the Fixing Our Streets program that’s funding a $64 million list of projects through 2020; an increase in Transportation System Development Charges thanks to booming growth; and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s $50 million Build Portland initiative just to name a few.

Then there’s the money coming to PBOT from the state transportation package (a.k.a. House Bill 2017) that was passed over the summer. PBOT is dividing up an estimated $15 million per year in discretionary funds from HB 2017 — that’s on top of set-aside funds coming from Salem for Safe Routes to School and other projects.

All told we’ve heard PBOT could have about $40-60 million a year to spend. By accounts of some veteran staffers we’ve talked to, that’s more than they’ve had in the piggy bank since the late 1990s.

At a meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) earlier this month, PBOT planner Zef Wagner and Shoshana Cohen from their finance group shared the agency’s latest thinking on how it should be spent.

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Before you get too excited, $40-60 million is a lot relative to what PBOT usually has; but they still claim to have $3.6 billion (with a “b”) in unmet maintenance and “safety and capacity” needs. Even so, the mere fact they’ve got a presentation titled “PBOT Investment Strategy” is a good sign.

PBOT outlined three major goals that will steer their investment decisions: manage existing assets, vision zero, and manage future growth. With an eye toward leveraging other funding sources, PBOT said they’re looking for “triple win” projects that touch on all three of those goals.

They shared a draft list of five “transformative triple win” projects that would total $61 million from a number of different sources. The projects are essentially complete rebuilds of big sections of outer SE Stark, the 42nd Avenue Bridge, NE Cornfoot Road, NE Halsey and NE 60th, and SW Capitol Highway:

And another five projects (some of which have already begun) have made a list labeled as “double win investments in safety and capacity”:

Portland City Council recently agreed to set-aside $5 million to rebuild the 42nd Avenue Bridge (over Lombard). That new bridge could tie into existing plans and work by PBOT on NE Cornfoot and Alderwood — main cycling routes to the Portland airport. With the neighborhood greenway on NE Holman that feeds into 42nd, Wagner said, “We could create a cohesive protected bike lane network to get to the airport.”

PBOT shared the maps below to show how these “transformative” projects align with adopted goals related to equity, safety (high crash network), and proximity to commercial centers and freight districts:

PBOT’s Wagner says this unprecedented confluence of funding sources offers the city a major opportunity. Instead of patchwork projects done on-the-cheap, there might be a chance to make major updates to a few key routes and finally begin to “bend the curve”.

“If we could combine Build Portland, HB 2017 and SDCs, we could really upgrade parts of the roadway… the type of thing we’re rarely able to do,” Wagner said. “We could reassess the character of the roadway.” Wagner also said the Bike Plan for 2030 is already seven years old and “It might be time to refresh that [project] list.”

Aligning different funding sources sounds easy, but red tape and bureaucratic turf wars often make it difficult.

If you’ve been dreaming of a major project in your neighborhood, now’s the time to ask PBOT for it. Make sure you’ve done your homework by read through the investment strategy first.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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John Liu
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John Liu

My immediate reaction – very encouraged to see the focus on east of 82nd.

jeff
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jeff

is Foster Blvd. going to actually be accomplished, or should we expect another 3+ years of delay?

rick
Guest
rick

Invest in that one trail project approved by city council in 2007 to help outer SW ?

mark
Guest
mark

I noticed the part about how PBOT measures success. For the Vision Zero projects, success is measured by the number of projects completed. Shouldn’t it be measured by decrease in death/serious injury crashes? Or am I missing the whole point of Vision Zero?

Jim
Guest
Jim

I was at the PBAC meeting as a guest, and so didn’t want to yell out. But that statement stuck out like a sore thumb, and nobody questioned it. This highlights a major flaw in our administrative system – for bureaucrats, it seems to be a system of numbers on paper/screens, that is very removed from the physical reality of our city. It does not inspire hope or confidence.

soren
Guest
soren

if the BAC had more insiders whose companies/ex-companies received city/state transpo funding it would certainly play a more active role in decision-making processes.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

It seems like we have been infected by these useless checklists when we would be better served with a more holistic view. While hammering together projects, both details and the project itself should constantly have to answer the question, “Does this help further our mission of reducing crashes and their severity while increasing the mode share of active transportation and serving people with mobility issues equitably?” (or some other global mission statement).

Instead we have far too many projects in which the operation was a success, but the patient died.

I worked at the University of California back before the President and Chancellors thought of themselves as CEOs. Major and minor projects were constantly viewed through the lens of the University mission statement, and it was taken seriously. The result was a public university system that was the envy of the world. PBoT could do with a bit of that.

Noel Mickelberry
Guest
Noel Mickelberry

One of the key actions from the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan around street design is:
Build capital safety improvements on two segments and five intersections in the High Crash Network each year, prioritizing improvements in and engaging with Communities of Concern

They require that any ‘Vision Zero’ capital project “Allocates a majority of the project cost to safety countermeasures* that address a specific, documented safety risk”

So yes, numbers are important in meeting this action item – which is one of their most ambitious. And in addition to the number of projects, they should also be meeting that VZ capital project definition. It will be important to track these projects to ensure that is the case.

Their performance measure for this action is:

Annual average number of deadly and serious crashes on improved segments, disaggregated by mode, age, and geography, compared to prior 5-year annual averages in the same segments

So, how the projects are reducing crashes is indeed part of the equation. Again, always important to be tracking that these things are indeed happening – but to me, this presentation aligns with what the action entails.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/71735

maxD
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maxD

I would think that a focus on fixing all the known gaps in the bike network would be a priority. I think a strong focus on East Portland is the necessary first place to look, but I think a concurrent push to patch all the gaps that prevent the individual bike routes from becoming a network that functions for a wide range of people would be a real game changer in terms of ridership numbers. The gap that I think would be the very best investment is completing the bike lanes along Skidmore between Michigan and 7th. This gives protected crossings with existing signals (low cost for PBOT) at MLK, Williams and Vancovuer. There are already bike lanes over I-5 and using a signal at Interstate. This segment of bike infrastructure would connect commercial districts along NE Alberta, Mississippi, Interstate and N Killingsworth. It would also interconnect the bike routes west of I-5 (Interstate, Going to Swan Island, Concord, Greeley) to the bike routes on the east side of I-5 (Going, Michigan, Vancouver/Williams, future 7th, Rodney). For a relatively low cost and the removal of parking, the network gets a huge boost in connectivity.

Momo
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Momo

Blandena/Going is only a couple blocks north of Skidmore. Hard to see it as a huge priority.

maxD
Guest
maxD

Blandena?Going is a meandering mess that is impossible to follow. It does not have an at-grade crossing of I-5. It does not have protected crossings at MLK, Vancouver, Williams, Albina/Mississisppi. Blandena/Going is a pathetic joke of a transportation route that is hobbling the inner Noth/Northeast bike network. Blandena/Going is emblematic of what is broken at PBOT and what should be replaced with something simple, inexpensive and functional!

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

Inexpensive?
pray tell what your ‘protected crossings’ look like in your simple world.

RRFB $75k/crossing
PHB $150k/intersection
Full signal $300k/intersection

without even evaluating ‘need’?

maxD
Guest
maxD

It would be inexpensive because the signals are already there! The bike lanes just need to be extended along Skidmore from Michigan to NE 7th. I definitely do NOT think it is a good use of limited dollars to install expensive blinking lights along the Going route between 7th and Interstate because that route is a preposterous jumble.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Huh. I sure thought it was one of the most popular bikeways in Portland, rather than the hellscape you are describing.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Protected bike lanes on 122nd, Foster Road to Marine Drive.

Momo
Guest
Momo

The Fixing Our Streets corridor safety project will likely include protected bike lanes of some sort.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

There’s a huge difference between planning and execution.

Just look at the last two bike plans and then at what actually got built.

soren
Guest
soren

those were mostly unfunded plans…

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

PBOT is still in deficit spending mode even with this supposed new infusion of cash, my prediction is that a good chunk of what they are currently discussing will also go unfunded.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

All transportation departments are always in debt, that’s how they fund projects NOW, rather than waiting until they have funds and watching city council suddenly take the funds away from them to fund parks, police, homeless shelters, etc. It’s called “deficit spending”, usually using bonds paid for with future funding streams, such as parking revenue, gas taxes, ULF, etc.

I have no doubt that PBOT will fund the projects listed, I just have doubts they’ll ever actually build them. They’ll scope out projects, design them, engineer them, send them out for public review, redesign them based upon public input they like (and ignore the rest), more public review, then redesign based for Vision Zero, then cancel or delay the project to re-allocate funds for a pet project. By the time it’s built, 15 years later, the value of funds will decline by a third, while community priorities will change radically.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

So we agree. 🙂

PBOT is broken, no amount of positive spin and PR is going to improve things on the streets until they radically change their business model; which, IMO is not likely to happen any time soon given the amount of power and control older ‘traditional’ engineers still have inside PBOT.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I totally agree.

soren
Guest
soren

also agree.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Looking at the comments, I can’t help but feel that PBoT has burned its reputation with cyclists and cycling advocates by constantly promising great things, game-changers, and then delivering more of the same-old-same-old dressed up with nicer shades of lipstick. The pig to which I refer is an approach that puts car speed and throughput above all else. How else do we explain the fact that we still have buses stuck in traffic and door-zone bike lanes?

At this point, it’s going to take some major improvements in the facts on the ground before PBoT can make announcements that aren’t met with rolled eyes. That’s actually a shame because PBoT, for all its failings (plenty of those) does have some people who are really trying to do the right thing. They’re mostly failing, but they are trying. It’s not always their fault, but until I see PBoT staffers picketing in front of ODOT and constantly testifying to state legislators, I’m not feeling the love.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Unfortunately, many of us advocates also drank the same koolade, we believed what planners at PBOT (and BPS) told us, without ever consulting directly with the engineers. Planners in general are “yes-people”, a bit like cheerleaders, they are convinced that government is good, that they are there to help us, and enthusiastically support anything that is progressive, but without ever consulting engineers beforehand. We pay engineers to be right, which means they often say “no”, but because the planners often act as a screen (probably unintentionally), we as advocates never hear those “nos” until after projects are already funded.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Halsey from 47th to 60th is badly in need of a road diet. Unfortunately, it is too narrow for standard bike lanes if they want to have a median turn lane.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

It could be done, given the current lane configuration and street width. The travel lanes and the turn lane would all need to be no more than 10 feet wide (9 feet is the federal minimum), and the bike lanes 5-feet wide, but it can be done. At least here in NC it has been done.

Manville
Guest

I like it. I think PBOT is headed in the right direction.

maxD
Guest
maxD

I appreciate PBOT’s focus on East Portland, but from the look of the maps, they are still focusing on discrete segments. The existing network is riddled with frustrating gaps and dangerous missing links that prevent ridership from growing and establishing. I hope that all new projects will make strong,safe and simple connections to other bike networks.
I also hope that PBOT can devote more time and money into filling in the well-known gaps in the existing network

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

$21M for NE 42nd to 47th x Columbia, and NE Cornfoot Rd. seems an extremely large piece of the budget for what purpose? Recreational or access to jobs? I don’t quite get what the priorities are. Working down on Columbia, I get that access to jobs by bike or transit are marginal. But lacking data or explanation, it appears to be a ‘road to nowhere’. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Because those roads are currently two lanes with no shoulders or sidewalks. It’s a major project to add bike lanes and sidewalks. And, yes, access to employment.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Portland bid for Amazon HQ: Employment access to the airport FedEx and USPS facilities.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

Amazon is already committted for the Meadowlark project in Rivergate…5k jobs, not visionary but coming. Would not working on completing npGreenway be a more timely effort?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

You are thinking logically. The city EcDev folks (PDC) are probably visioning something more dramatic, with stronger airport connections, rather than port connections.

maccoinnich
Guest

Can anyone from PBOT explain why the project costs above are so much higher than the costs in the TSP project list? i.e. Cornfoot Rd Corridor Improvements is estimated at $3.6 million in the TSP, but based on the investment strategy would be a $9 million project. Surely the re-paving can’t cost $5.4 million?

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

2007 TSP or not yet approved update?
Planning estimates are not conservative enough.

maccoinnich
Guest

TSP project list, as adopted by City Council on June 15th 2016.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/620127

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The $9 million figure is likely based upon the recent reconstruction of SE 136th between Division and Foster. The TSP project #40036 only calls for new paths, shoulders, and guard rails – repaving the street is extra.

Momo
Guest
Momo

These include paving and signal replacements, because asset replacement is the only thing the Build Portland funding can be used for. The TSP typically doesn’t include asset maintenance, though perhaps it should given these new funding sources. For Cornfoot, the multi-use path is $3.2M and the rest is paving cost.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Oh, and yes, you better believe paving costs $5.4 million. Cornfoot needs a deep grind-and-pave, and reconstruction in some areas.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Pretty sure if PBOT surveyed Portlanders, not a single one would suggest replacing the overpass at 42nd was a top priority.

Nor would they Cornfoot Road for that matter.

82nd, Foster, Lombard and 122nd are a mess and inconvenience tens of thousands of people daily with their sub-standard sidewalks, poor condition, few crossings and sewer-like appearance.

Clearly, whatever rubric they employed is inaccurate if this is the results it returned.

Momo
Guest
Momo

Nope. The Cully neighborhood, Verde, Living Cully, Hacienda CDC, NAYA, Columbia Corridor Association, and many other organizations in the area actually do think it is a top priority, and many of them have directly advocated for it to be funded.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Build Portland funding can only be used for City of Portland asset replacement, so the idea is to combine funding to do safety and multimodal capacity improvements at the same time as paving or bridge replacement. 82nd and Lombard are owned by ODOT, so they are not eligible. 122nd and Foster are already getting quite a bit of paving and safety improvements through other upcoming projects.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Respectfully, you’d be wrong — I’d certainly put both of those near the top. The poor condition of the 42nd bridge and the poor pavement condition and lack of even a cursory bike lane on Cornfoot are serious barriers to my daily bike commute to PDX. It’s a mess on a good day. On a day where visibility is even a little bit iffy, it’s dangerous (and I won’t do it — I drive instead).

There are plenty of other barriers to address (like the dangerous game of frogger one must play at Cully/Columbia/Alderwood), but this is a good start.