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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bikes vs. Trucks: Metro Votes on Swapping Bike Funding for Freight

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 5:02 PM

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  • Liz Meyer
Metro's obscure-but-powerful Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will vote this Thursday morning on how to split a $24 million pot of money between bike/ped projects and freight projects. As I reported last week in "Bikes vs. Trucks", historically $19.9 million (about 88 percent) of the funds have gone to bike and fed projects. The remainder going to freight and roads, which are hilariously dubbed "green economy" projects.

A coalition of 17 business, including the Portland Business Alliance, paper giant Weyerhauser, Fred Meyer, Columbia Sportswear and Schnitzer Steel are pushing for the change and make some good points about how freight creates jobs therefore deserves more funding from Metro. It raises the question: Is giving over 80 percent of the flexible fund to bike and ped projects unfair? Should the money be split more 60/40, like the freight groups are pushing, or even 25/75?

Metro Councilor Robert Liberty is against the switch, but thinks the council will probably compromise and split the money 60/40 for active transportation/freight. "If we want a balanced transportation system, we've got to put emphasis on active transportation because there's so much money elsewhere that goes to trucks and cars," says Liberty. He's upset that freight advocates see funding bike/ped projects as a route to increasing traffic local streets. "Giving people more choices for how to get around reduces congestion," says Liberty.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocate Gerik Kranksy says that although a 75/25 split seems to favor bike and ped project unfairly, when you look at the entire funding picture, it's clear that bikes need the advantage. Roads, bridges and freight consume about 73 percent of state and regional transportation funding. Specific bike and pedestrian projects (including sidewalks, trails and bike paths) get only two percent of funds.

And the $19.9 million in Metro funds up for a vote this week make up 25 percent of all the money bike and ped projects get from the state and Metro. Dropping from $19.9 million to $12 million, as proposed, will take a big bite out of bike funding, cutting roughly 10 percent of the entire statewide budget spent on bike/ped project. Yikes.

The JPACT meeting on Thursday from 7:30-9:30 AM at Metro (600 NE Grand) is open to the public (and they have snacks) but the public is not allowed to testify. Instead, you have to email Metro your opinion.

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