Making Sausage … and Budgets

I no longer sit on TPAC, but I still get the agenda packet notices (anyone can request them). I want to call attention to a process that gets started at this Friday’s meeting that perhaps does not get the public attention that it should.

One of the things our region does very well is speak with one voice on transportation funding priorities for federal dollars. The four members of our House delegation (3 Oregon reps and Brian Baird from the Washington State side of the river) hear the same message. This gives us a big leg up on other less disciplined regions where different counties and cities may lobby for conflicting projects.

How do we manage to get everyone on the same page when they talk to their representatives? The consensus gets worked out at JPACT, where the jurisdictions work out their differences and seek equity and hopefully sound regional policy. Sometimes that looks like saving up your chits for a multi-year appropriation (like I-205 light rail, or the Washington County commuter rail). Sometimes it look like convincing a number of jurisdictions that a facility (like the Sellwood Bridge) really does impact all of them. And sometimes is looks like very canny understanding of which federal pots of money can be used for what purposes and how to swap funds back and forth (legally) to achieve goals.

But JPACT is where the action is, and TPAC works the draft on its way to JPACT. Here’s the draft that TPAC will review (PDF, 31K) on Friday. It totals some $157M in requests, so it’s not chump change. But this is a process that while conducted in public meetings, gets very little public attention. I’m not saying I don’t think these are worthy projects – after all they all come from the Regional Transportation Plan, which does have an involved public process. But maybe more people should pay attention to what’s going on…

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