PBOT Director made misleading statements about source of Broadway bike lane funding

SW Broadway bike lane. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

One rationale Transportation Commissioner Mingus Mapps and Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Millicent Williams used to justify their attempt to make major changes to the bike lane on Broadway through downtown, was that it simply looks bad.

“Concern regarding aesthetics of street, bike lane, parking signs,” was one of eight concerns noted by Williams in a PBOT staff meeting on August 21st.

And one month later, when Williams was forced to apologize for pushing the plan through over objections of staff and without any public notice, she said one of the reasons for doing so was because Broadway bike lane was funded through the bureau’s Quick Build program. That program is used to, “fill gaps in the multi-modal transportation system through small projects” that generally cost under $500,000.

“The fact is, that this bike lane was built as a Quick Build project,” Director Williams said while reading her apology from prepared remarks at a meeting of the PBOT Bureau Budget Advisory Committee last Thursday. “And as you all know, the budget for those projects are very limited and doesn’t always result in our best work.”

It’s unclear if Williams came up with that herself, or if someone wrote it for her. Either way, it’s not true.

According to PBOT Public Information Officer Dylan Rivera, the protected bike lanes on Northwest and Southwest Broadway (along with several other projects that were part of the Central City in Motion plan) were funded by the federal government, through $4.5 million worth of Regional Flexible Funding Allocation (RFFA) grants, which were administered by Metro. PBOT also chipped-in $600,000 in local matching funds from their General Transportation Revenue pot (which is made up of State Highway Fund and parking revenues).

In an email this morning, Rivera said, the project was, “Built in the style of a Quick Build, with the plastic posts and other elements you’d expect in a Quick Build, in order to deliver the project as soon as possible. But there was no funding from our Quick Build program in the project.”

To be clear, despite Williams’ statements, Quick Build program funding was not used to build the Broadway bike lanes.

And when it comes to Metro’s role, they have more than just a financial investment in the Broadway bike lanes. As the primary funder, they’re obligated to follow strict federal rules for how their grants are spent. While researching this story, I asked Metro about the potential reversal of the Broadway project — a move that would have been counter to the goals of Metro’s RFFA program.

A Metro spokesperson told BikePortland that,

“We are monitoring how PBOT implements grants awarded by Metro and paid for through federal funds. These are competitive grants that help address our region’s limited transportation funding, and it’s imperative that jurisdictions that are awarded grants follow through on the grant commitments.”

And Metro Councilor Duncan Hwang, who represents downtown Portland, said in an email to BikePortland,

“These are competitive grants and other jurisdictions in our region like Oregon City or Beaverton also would have liked to see increased bike/ped infrastructure. Jurisdictions that don’t follow the grant terms may damage their credibility in future grant cycles and noncompliance also reflects poorly on our region when it comes to federal funding.”

And in City Council testimony last week about a separate US Department of Transportation grant PBOT has applied for, The Street Trust Executive Director said the Broadway situation, “Raises a significant question.” “Why would the federal government fund an infrastructure installation that PBOT might later just decide to remove?”

All of this underscores just how recklessly Commissioner Mapps and Director Williams acted. And making a misleading statement about funding to cover-up for a mistake only serves to confuse the public and further erodes trust. Thankfully, this misguided attempt to rip out an important and safe bike lane appears to be on hold. But the damage to PBOT’s reputation is done.


UPDATE, 12:22 pm: After reading the post, PBOT PIO Dylan Rivera emailed BikePortland: “Clearly Director Williams was referring to the project as a quick build style installation, not the funding source. If you look at the context of those statements, it was in light of the concerns we heard from people about the materials and design and her statements about it not being the level of work we are used to building when we have funding for more permanent improvements. Please correct your post.”

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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cc_rider
cc_rider
7 months ago

Hi Dylan,

When I read it, I assumed the same thing as Johnathan. Perhaps you just did a bad job when you wrote her non-sincere apology?

Perhaps instead of trolling BikePortland during the work day waiting for more evidence of Mapps and Williams lying to show up, you could encourage them to come clean about why they are using their focus on trying to spend money to undue a functioning bike lane while facing a $32 million budget deficit and looking at eliminating landslide debris?

Come on Dylan, you are the PIO. You’re gonna keep reading this post. Why not respond here? Why did Mingus Mapps personally ask Williams to try and remove this bike lane without public input or notice?

Or more realistically, can you just tell us the amount Mapps got in a bribe from the PBA?

Thanks,

CC_rider

Ralph Chang
Ralph Chang
7 months ago

Williams is a convicted felon. Did anyone expect she would be forthright?

Watts
Watts
7 months ago
Reply to  Ralph Chang

This is why we should never give convicted felons a second chance. Right?

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

At holding significant power over a city, in a position where the specific conviction is relevant, yes.

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I mean I think second chances should be given, but the real question is why is Mapps giving her a 3rd chance or I guess now a 4th chance rather than calling for her resignation?

Chopwatch
Chopwatch
7 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Not just any old felon, but something that involves fraud and dishonesty.

cct
cct
7 months ago
Reply to  Ralph Chang

Please stop repeating this; while true, all I hear is the same thing I heard when people criticized Hardesty over her gambling: racist mysogyny.

John V
John V
7 months ago
Reply to  cct

Yeah but Hardesty’s gambling was not a crime or even a thing that reflects poorly on her. It was definitely just racist misogyny (or best case, just grasping at anything to tar and feather her). In the case of Williams, there was actually a relevant crime that should matter for the position. If she was elected, that would be one thing (voters can decide to overlook a crime if they want, and I encourage it!).

I guess it just reflects really poorly on Mapps. She’s just doing the job (and playing the role) she was appointed for.

bjorn
bjorn
7 months ago
Reply to  cct

Nope, this is a bad take, she has in the past committed fraud at work to further an agenda, her felony conviction is directly relevant to the lying she has been doing on the job here. She came in knowing that there would be additional scrutiny because of her conviction and this is still what we got. She absolutely has to go at this point.

cct
cct
7 months ago
Reply to  bjorn

It’s the repetition – we know this, it has been noted, and constantly bringing it up seems in bad faith.

There’s a PBOT employee who committed fraud, recently, while at PBOT; an infraction that were they a federal employee would have cost them their job, fnancial penalties, and likely a criminal charge. That person has done and is doing way more harm to active transit than removing a single bike lane. Did BikePortland hoi polloi spend all their time repeatedly braying they resign for this? No.

See if you can spot the difference between the two people.

cct
cct
7 months ago
Reply to  cct

Quick follow-up: critique her for car-centric work history. Valid, and more concerning (and still shows how she has bad judgement!).

John
John
7 months ago

Dylan Rivera, author of the original PBOT statement regarding the Broadway Bike Lane Scandal, complaining about words being misleading.

Tony Jordan (Contributor)

Dylan Rivera has the power to object. According to govsalaries.com Dylan Rivera made $115,000 in 2022, up from $108,000 in 2020.

If Dylan doesn’t want to carry water for liars then he can certainly request a transfer or quit an find a new job.

ITOTS
ITOTS
7 months ago

This is why the debacle has been so devastating to staff.

For those who are mission- and values-driven (serving the public and having lots of influence on meaningful and high-impact projects and initiatives to serve that public), the city has something of a monopoly on that kind of work. Staff felt betrayed, undermined, and trapped—like they no longer had the ability to make even the few guarantees and assurances formerly within their power to make about what was coming (or staying the same) to community members, ashamed of where they worked and the promises they made to community members but now weren’t sure they could uphold, infuriated the bureau could move so fast on something that mattered so little but couldn’t make positive improvements in places where people have actually died. When it was revealed Williams worked to make these and other changes under the cover of night, she also betrayed the trust community members personally invest in individual staff, delicate trust that is built up over years and many one-on-one conversations and follow-through on actions, trust that allows staff to get the best information to get work done, trust that allows staff to convince community members to take a leap on something that might feel new or uncertain—which is how we have a chance at moving the needle in this town. It should be easy to understand how this all made many staff sick to their stomach, and, yes, even consider looking for other places to work.

But it is SO far from being as simple as thinking “well I make good money here and just as easily could make the same good money somewhere else.” If PBOT were full of folks with that mentality, you wouldn’t have had multiple people approaching media with information about the miscarriage of process that was going on.

Director Williams has not earned the trust that she asked staff for on day one of her tenure as Director of Transportation. Despite all of this, I know Millicent and she is a wonderful individual, humorous, a joy to talk and think with, capable of being deeply moved, and, most redeemingly, someone capable of deep reflection and course correction—something I believe she is in the middle of now. She’s at a deficit today, but if there is someone who can both do the damage she has already done AND find a way to turn around and authentically lead the bureau in a way consistent with its top-line goals from where she’s actually at—she’s not here for the revolution, she’s has no particular love for bikes, she has strong feelings about the details of projects that sometimes run counter to best practice (see leaked email enumerating list of treatments she wanted to see on SW Broadway), she views herself as a realist and many staff as unrealistic—it’s her. This not a vote of confidence in her directorship, but a vote of confidence that she is capable of being worthy of that mantle and potentially our trust again. We want you to be successful, Millicent.

morganblee
morganblee
7 months ago

I don’t think this is a fair characterization. That is hardly a salary that precludes you from needing a steady job and paycheck, therefore it does not result in the power to object. Is it a good salary? Yes. Does it make someone wealthy and powerful and a job loss inconsequential? Absolutely not. We don’t really know what went on in the room or who had the final say on the statement. Dylan has been an active and vested member of the community, I don’t want to immediately jump to such negative conclusions of him. Hopefully he takes into consideration that word choice from positions of authority (Director Williams in this case) matters greatly, and whether something is the intention or not doesn’t really mean anything when it is received otherwise.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
7 months ago

Grasping at straws again.

clay
clay
7 months ago

(“Dylan Rivera” removes mask to reveal… Barbara Streisand!)

dstone
dstone
7 months ago

I’m thinking Pulitzer here! Thanks for the coverage.

JG
JG
7 months ago

And this clown is gonna be our next mayor?
Expect a pretty darn cruddy circus, then…

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
7 months ago

He can backpedal on what she meant all he wants – the fact is that the money *did* come from a competitive grant, and they were just about ready to toss it out the window without so much as considering the impact that would have on future grant applications.

Thye could have (may still have) irreparably damaged future grant applications.

Milli & Mingus – working hard to screw PDX’s future over.

maccoinnich
7 months ago

Two thoughts:

1) Rivera’s comment that Williams was clearly referring to it as being quick build as opposed to Quick Build is Veep level spin.

2) Williams isn’t exactly wrong that the quality of the Broadway project isn’t great. That’s fine; sometimes it’s worth it just to get the best possible project given constraints on the ground when the opportunity permits. So I’m glad that they’re now moving forward with plans to improve it… but I can’t understand how it could have cost $4.5 million? That would be more than the cost of the Naito project north of the Hawthorne Bridge. Unlike Naito, the Broadway project included very little concrete work, very little (if any?) signal work, no landscaping, etc.

morganblee
morganblee
7 months ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

The 4.5 million covered multiple projects, Broadway being among them.

maccoinnich
7 months ago
Reply to  morganblee

What else did it cover? I don’t remember seeing this going out to bid, and Google hasn’t helped.

Julian Dunn
7 months ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

Not only that but it’s clear that Williams phraseology of “And as you all know, the budget for those projects are very limited and doesn’t always result in our best work” is meant to refer to the actual program. Glad you didn’t bend to PBOT’s attempt to spin this one, Jonathan.

Matt
Matt
7 months ago

How does Dylan Rivera’s demand for a retraction in the 12:22 p.m. update make sense?

Again, the direct quote from Director Williams’ statement to the BBAC was:

“The fact is that this bike lane was built as a Quick Build project, and as you all know, the budget for those projects are very limited and doesn’t always result in our best work.”

The reference to Quick Build is clearly meant to represent that the Broadway bike lane was a Quick Build project — not as a “style” of installation as Rivera strains to interpret — and because it was a Quick Build project it was a very limited budget and not PBOT’s best work.

Clearly, the inference from the quote was to cast the bike lane as an inferior project executed under specific constraints, despite the fact that those constraints didn’t really exist.

This was an attempt to justify the rationale for the (arbitrary) dismantling of the protected bike lane through, at best, misleading testimony to the committee, or, at worst, a well-considered fallacy.

Either way, it doesn’t appear a correction is warranted.

Fred
Fred
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Now I’m thinking that Dylan Rivera should resign.

mc
mc
7 months ago

it was in light of the concerns we heard from people about the materials and design and her statements about it not being the level of work we are used to building when we have funding for more permanent improvements.

I don’t know about for anyone else, but this still doesn’t jibe for me. I perused Metro’s RFFA project application document.

https://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2019/04/07/2022-24_RFFA_ProjectGuidance.pdf

I didn’t see anything in there in regards to permanent vs temporary improvements.

Metro Council decided that Regional Flexible Funds for individual projects should be focused on achieving the four primary RTP investment priorities2: • advancing Equity • improving Safety • implementing the region’s Climate Smart Strategy3 • managing Congestion

“Concerns about materials.” I’m presuming plastic wands, paint and signs are legitimately about safety. They don’t actually protect cyclists and are marginal safety improvements to paint / bike lane striping at best.

Wearing hi-viz clothing doesn’t protect you on a bike, but wearing a helmet does protect your brain in the event of a fall or crash.

Elka
Elka
7 months ago

I’m disgusted by the amount of money spent on unused bike lanes that make our streets a jumble of confusing swtches and obstacles, regardless of who paid for them. And WRT Mingus Mapps, he’s constantly telling us how confused he is by everything, so nothing new there.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago
Reply to  Elka

Car Brain in a nutshell. Bike lanes should have “obstacles” to prevent soccer moms in Suburbans from mowing down people on bikes. But if the money has got you mad, wait till you find out how much highways cost.

socially engineered
socially engineered
7 months ago

Funded by the federal government you say? That’s weird, because Millicent Williams just told us that bicycle infrastructure in Portland was specifically being subsidized by car drivers. Yet the last time I checked, I didn’t get a pass on paying federal income tax just because I don’t drive a car. Curious.

Rudy
Rudy
7 months ago

So it was built as if there was limited resources when there were ample resources? Why, how much did it cost, how much should have been spent, and was it so necessary for the community that pbot had to “quick build” it?