Sidewalks, bikeways, trails and freight connections in communities around greater Portland will receive funding they need after the Metro Council unanimously approved $30 million in grants for 12 projects Thursday.
The decision comes after a process lasting more than year. Thousands of area residents provided comments, local jurisdictions weighed in with priorities and close technical analysis weighed proposed projects’ benefits with key regional priorities.
The Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation recommended the 12 projects for funding on Jan. 19.
The grants will be paid by a collection of federal transportation dollars known in greater Portland as regional flexible funds, because regional leaders have some flexibility for how to allocate them. The funds are intended to improve air quality, relieve congestion, create more transportation options and improve transportation system performance.
Generally, Metro leads a process for determining how to spend these dollars every three years. This round of funds is expected to be available beginning in 2019.
Needs exceed funds
Roughly $33 million was available for local projects this cycle, with 75 percent reserved by JPACT and the Metro Council for projects that make walking, biking and getting to transit safer, and the remainder reserved for projects that improve freight movement. Each project is partially funded by local dollars, as well.
Although Metro councilors had a lot of praise for the projects they approved for funding Thursday, they noted that communities applied for many other worthy projects that could not be funded.
Communities around the region submitted more than two dozen applications seeking a total of almost $92 million for walking and biking projects, and five applications totaling nearly $9 million for freight projects – about three times the total available funding.
Technical staff and community members on the Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee and regional elected leaders on the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation selected which projects to recommend for funding based on a number of factors, including technical analysis and thousands of public comments.
Even then, several communities adjusted their project plans, budgets or funding strategies to get more funding to more projects.
Councilors expressed their appreciation for the hard work put in by TPAC, JPACT and local communities.
"A lot of collaboration went into rightsizing the projects submittals in order to fit the available budget, because as always, needs exceeded capacity," said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington.
Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, who also chairs JPACT, noted how some local jurisdictions had been willing to make changes to their projects or increase their local contributions to help others get funded.
"It's very impressive to me that everyone in the region has really come together to make those kinds of sacrifices," Dirksen said.
Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette noted the appreciation she'd heard from constituents in West Linn, where the funds will help make Highway 43 safer for walking, biking and driving in a residential area. The city increased its local funding match to make sure the project could be funded.
"My friends in West Linn wanted me to thank Metro and JPACT because they've never submitted an application for a transportation project and this one is going to be awarded. They're very excited," she said.
$3 million left to allocate in Gresham
There is still a little more than $3 million left to allocate, however.
At its Jan. 19 meeting, JPACT sought more time to discuss which of two projects in Gresham should receive funding – completing sidewalks on a half-mile stretch of Division Street or safety improvements to a half-mile of Cleveland Avenue.
JPACT is expected to continue that discussion and make a recommendation on Feb. 16. Following that, the Metro Council will decide whether to accept the recommendation.
List of projects
Below is a list of the projects that the Metro Council has approved for federal funds. Find a clickable map with additional project details at the bottom of this page. Applications with more details about each project are also available here.
Active Transportation/Complete Streets
Beaverton Creek Trail
Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District
Brentwood-Darlington Safe Routes to School
Cully Walking and Biking Parkway
Halsey Street Safety and Access to Transit
Herman Road Walking and Biking Improvements
Highway 43 Walking and Biking Improvements
I-5 Walking and Biking Bridge
Jade and Montavilla Connected Centers
Molalla Avenue Walking and Biking Improvements
Basalt Creek Parkway extension
Central Eastside Access and Circulation Improvements
Hunziker Road Industrial Area
Regional Freight Studies
*Regional Freight Studies will receive up to $210,000 based on cost savings identified in Portland's Central Eastside Access and Circulation Improvements project.
This story was updated Feb. 3, 2017, with quotes from the Metro Council meeting and further detail about total project funds.