Lessons learned, Metro ponders TIGER II

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Bike Back the Night-18.jpg

If Metro wants federal funds for
active transportation projects, they’ve
got to adjust their approach.
(Photo © J. Maus)

With the US Department of Transportation’s announcement of TIGER II, a $600 million extension of the stimulus funded TIGER grant program, local active transportation advocates are considering another round of applications.

Our regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, Metro, submitted four active transportation projects totaling $97 million in the first go-round of TIGER grants.

None of those projects received funding*, and since the grant announcement in February, Metro staff has been trying to learn why.

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N/NE Portland bikeway dream will soon come true (or be deferred)

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Dar k blue = cycle tracks.
(Graphic: Metro)

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that funding decisions for their stimulus minded Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program will be made no later than February 17th.

To refresh your memory, last fall Metro submitted a TIGER grant request for $98 million in active transportation projects throughout the Portland region. One of those projects is a $38 million proposal to build a dense and complete neighborhood bikeway system in 13 square miles of North and Northeast Portland.

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A smoother Springwater now expected by summer 2010

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This 7.2 mile stretch of the Springwater should be much smoother by summer 2010.
(Map: City of Portland)

A project to repave the popular Springwater Corridor Trail that was green-lighted by Metro back in March is now scheduled for completion by early June 2010. The $1.8 million project will overlay asphalt on top of the original rough chip seal surface for over seven miles of the trail from the east end of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge to Jenne Road. The project was part of a $38 million pot of funds from the federal economic stimulus package.

Three Bridges opening celebration

Smooth sailin’.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Back in March, Kyle Chisek, a project manager at the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, said construction would begin this past summer and would be completed “a couple of months” later (as in right about now). I followed up with Chisek this morning after a reader wrote in wondering why the project hadn’t started yet.

Chisek said it comes down to all the paperwork (inter-governmental agreement between Transportation and Parks departments, environmental assessments) and process (approval from ODOT). According to Chisek, Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) “Really underestimated the time it would take to get through the federal process.”

PP&R spokesperson Beth Sorensen said construction is currently slated for mid-March (it would have started this winter, but asphalt projects need dry weather). Sorensen also said that “for safety reasons” sections of the trail will be completely closed during construction. A detour plan will be created and so far, the schedule for the closures has not been released.

ODOT, TriMet will roll out I-205 path improvements

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The (Epic) Sushi Ride

Project will improve lighting
on I-205 path.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the federal stimulus bill), the bike and pedestrian path that runs along Interstate 205 will be getting a $2.5 million makeover.

Most of the money will go toward new lighting on a 3.6 mile stretch of the path from SE Sunnyside Road to SE Woodstock (I hope it doesn’t attract vandals), but according to ODOT spokesperson Christine Miles there’s more in store than just improved illumination.

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Today is final day to comment on Metro stimulus projects

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(Lots of talk about stimulus funds around here lately. Hope you’re staying with me).

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) may get the largest chunk of federal stimulus money (about $232 million last time I checked), but Metro also gets a piece of the pie — $38 million to be exact. That’s a much smaller piece, but Metro is more likely than ODOT to fund non-highway projects.

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ODOT/OTC release stimulus funds application, process details

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“The OTC also recognizes the need to balance highway needs with other modal needs.”
— From a statement released by ODOT today

The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC), acting on behalf of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), has announced the application process and more details on how they’ll allocate their remainder of federal stimulus funds.

The OTC approved 31 projects totaling $122 million as part of their first phase of funding decisions. In Phase II, the OTC will have about $110 million to assign to transportation projects throughout the state.

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Bike projects expected to compete better in next phase of stimulus funding

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State transportation planners are scrambling to get their “shovel ready” projects in order and they’re waiting eagerly by their inboxes this morning. That’s because any day now, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is expected to release the application forms for what they’re calling “Phase II of the Federal Economic Stimulus”.

I spoke with ODOT’s communications director Patrick Cooney (he’s also the spokesperson for the Oregon Transportation Commission) yesterday and he said Phase II will allocate $110 million* the next phase of stimulus funding for infrastructure projects will get underway very soon.

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Group responds to ODOT/OTC stimulus decision: “What went wrong?”

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“What went wrong?… The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money.”
— excerpt from a statement set to go out to supporters of Transportation for Oregon’s Future

Transportation for Oregon’s Future — a “network of organizations and businesses supporting transportation choices for the 21st Century” — is not happy with the decisions made by ODOT’s Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on how to spend Oregon’s initial, $122 million chunk of federal stimulus funds.

As we reported this morning, the OTC decided last week to fund just one bike/ped project (valued at $2.5 million) out of 30 total projects and they did not fund a single transit project.

Bob Stacey is the executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon and he’s working on the Transportation for Oregon’s Future effort. He is disappointed in the OTC’s decision and he’s already planning a course of action. He gave me a sneak peek at the email he plans to send out to supporters (1,300 of them wrote to Governor Kulongoski about this issue in just a few days).

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OTC delays funding decision, shows “cautious willingness” to consider non-highway projects

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“[The OTC showed a] cautious willingness to consider the possibility that local bike, pedestrian and transit projects might just be as “shovel ready” as ODOT’s existing list.”
— Bob Stacey, 1000 Friends of Oregon

The Governor-appointed Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) was set to make a decision on how Oregon would spend it’s federal economic stimulus money this week. However, after hearing concerns from Metro and a new coalition calling themselves Transportation for Oregon’s Future, the OTC has decided to delay their decision until Friday of next week.

That information comes from Bob Stacey, executive director of 1000 Friends of Oregon. Stacey was in Salem for the OTC meeting on Wednesday. Joining Stacey was Metro councilor Rex Burkholder. Also at the meeting was Karl Rohde from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Both Stacey and Burkholder have written letters expressing their concerns that the OTC and the Oregon Department of Transportation were hurrying into approval of a project list that leaned too far in favor of highway paving projects — at the exclusion of more multi-modal projects.

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