We’re at that awkward stage in a highway mega-project when the agency in charge is under a cloud of controversy and still (after years of planning) doesn’t have an official endorsement to start construction, but still wants money to keep the project moving forward.
Of course I’m talking about the Oregon Department of Transportation and the I-5 Rose Quarter Project. And it seems whenever I do, there’s growing skepticism and concern from regional leaders about it.
Here’s the latest…
The regional Metro committee that controls $130 million in federal funds continues to consider an increase in money for road widening rather than for safety improvements to streets near schools.
JPACT, the committee of 17 regional officials, was due to vote last month but decided to postpone its vote until next Thursday.
At play are $17.4 million in new money created by last year’s federal transportation bill. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other nonprofits in the For Every Kid Coalition have led a two-year campaign to secure much of that money for Safe Routes to School infrastructure across the region, which improves crosswalks, sidewalks and bikeways near schools. Their proposal would prioritize “Title 1” schools, those with higher rates of child poverty.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (and TriMet) is set to invest $8.2 million into sidewalks, neighborhood greenways and transit-safety related projects in East Portland. The funding comes from a $34 million “Regional Economic Opportunity Fund” created by a Metro committee last year.
In case you forgot, this $34 million is the result of a debate at Metro back in October about how best to spend federal “regional flexible funds.” At the last go-round, advocates (including the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) fought hard to win a 75/25 split for active transportation projects. Advocates hoped to use that same allocation method for an additional $34 million Metro is awarding this time around. However, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) voted instead to create a new “Regional Economic Opportunity Fund” (explained further here).[Read more…]
“… In a deep recession, people who are struggling — in addition to buses and bike paths — also need access to a job.”
— Ann Lininger, Clackamas County Commissioner
A 17-member Metro committee made up of mayors, commissioners, and transportation agency leaders around the region voted this morning to do away with a 75/25 federal funding allocation split that was hailed by active transportation advocates when it was established in 2010. At their meeting, Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) voted instead to adopt a new policy direction that will have projects of all types — including massive highway expansion projects — competing against each other.
At issue is how best to dole out an additional $38 million ($37.78 to be exact) that is unspoken for out of a $147 million pot of federal grant funds administered through the federal Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) for the years 2016-18. (Note: Of this $147 million, JPACT has already decided to allocate: $48 million to transit bond payments, $26 million to Metro planning and regional programs, $26 million to “Active Transportation and Complete Streets” projects and $8.7 million to “Green Economy and Freight” projects).[Read more…]
“It is unacceptable to the BTA to consider overturning our current policy… The Port [of Portland]… wants this money for highway/road projects. Now is the time to say no.”
— Gerik Kransky, BTA
A funding fight is brewing at Metro over how the regional planning agency should allocate nearly $38 million in federal funds. Unlike the vast majority of transportation funds fought over by various regional interest groups, these funds are “flexible,” meaning they can be spent on nearly any type of project. With scarce dollars in play these days, the competition to snag them is intense.
The $37.78 on the table at Metro is a portion of $147 million in “regional flexible funds” they will dole out through the federal government’s Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) for the years of 2016 – 2018.
(Photo © J. Maus)
United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer spoke during a rare appearance at an influential Metro committee last week, doling out some tough love over the groups’ inability to come together around a regional vision for transportation investments. It was a rare showing of straight talk that speaks to a larger issue facing metro Portland’s elected officials and transportation leaders:
To achieve a new vision of transportation it will take big and bold projects that the entire region supports… But what projects fit that bill? And are regional leaders capable of agreeing to a single priority over pet projects in their own backyards?
Metro’s 17-member Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) is staffed by bigwigs like Portland Mayor Sam Adams, TriMet GM Neil McFarlane, and many other agency directors, Metro staffers, mayors, and commissioners from around the region. The group recently submitted five projects to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER III grant program.
success of light rail corridors in making
decisions about active transportation funding.
(Photo © J. Maus)
A Metro task force put together to decide how the agency’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) should spend $23 million in federal “flexible” funds, has agreed that the money set aside for active transportation projects — about three-fourths of it — should focus on just a few corridors at a time. The approach, similar to how TriMet has built out their light rail system, would be distinctly different than how our region has typically funded biking and walking projects.
Metro has unveiled the list of “regional experts” that will sit on a task force to make recommendations on how the agency should dole out about $24 million in federal transportation dollars.
Back in July, there was a heated debate at Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation over how best to divide up those funds. The debate came after active transportation advocates lined up on one side and freight advocates lined up on the other. With both sides pulling at the committee, the vote was very close. [Read more…]
Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) met this morning to set policy parameters on how to allocate $20-24 million in federal Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan dollars (MTIP) — also known as Regional Flexible Funds. After some tense discussion, the committee split 7-6 in favor of a motion to target 75% of the funds for active transportation projects and 25% for freight projects (after that contentious amendment passed, the committee unanimously passed the full resolution).