Regional Priorities

On Thursday, JPACT will review regional priorities for the next transportation reauthorization, the once-every-six-years setting of Federal transportation policy.

I’ve extracted the draft policy document (PDF, 362K) from the meeting packet.

While I’m sure our approach will be much more progressive that most other regions, there is still room for improvement. Here are a few gripes:

  • “Metropolitan Mobility” means roads – the section on Metropolitan Mobility loftily starts out talking about a multi-modal transportation system, but all the projects listed in the section are road projects. Transit goes into a separate section and if freight rail appears in the document, I didn’t see it.
  • A special call-out for “Mega-projects” looks like a way to put Columbia River Crossing funding in its own bucket that won’t impact other allocations.
  • One of the great cop-out lines on climate change:

    Provide a clear integration with federal climate change policy. Individual projects cannot be held accountable for meeting regional greenhouse gas reduction targets. However, the overall regional system can be held accountable and the federal transportation programs should ensure this accountability (much like the current air quality conformity requirement). [Emphasis mine]

    If we allow mega-projects that negatively impact climate change in significant ways (ala the CRC), it’s going to be very difficult to produce an overall transportation system that reduces greenhouse gases significantly. We need look no further than the RTP process, where the scenario modeling is showing how difficult it is to keep VMT from growning.

Now to be sure, there’s a LOT of good stuff in this policy including lots of worthy transit investments. I’m particularly pleased by the emphasis on doing the Sunrise corridor as a parkway (it probably helps that the chief proponent of the parkway approach is now Clackamas County Chair).

But we have room for improvement.

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