That’s One, Just One

Over at Bike Portland they’re reporting that the Oregon Transportation Commission, with $122M of stimulus money to spend, managed to fund exactly ONE bike/ped project.

Road builders: rejoice.

Planet savers: despair?

16 responses to “That’s One, Just One”

  1. You can’t neglect to mention the amount going to road ‘modernization,’ as they like to call it, instead of actually keeping our aging infrastructure modernized to seismic standards and the like.

    Was there anyone out there paying attention to things like the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis?

    Even as an avid cyclist, this is just too grave an oversight on the OTC’s part.

  2. Over 1/3 of the funding is going to road-widening projects, and the one bike/ped project is basically just improving the lighting on a trail along I-205.

    It just seems absolutely unfathomable that at a time like this we would be trying to promote greater volumes of automobile traffic. Sorry, but I sometimes do wonder if the US is just doomed to destroy itself.

  3. Once again, it as if bicyclists don’t or won’t use at least some of the roads and bridges that are to be improved – and in doing so, unlike motorists who pay fuel taxes, license and registration fees to use the roads; bicyclists continue to whine like crybabies even though they currently receive a free pass. Moreover, since bicyclists are not directly taxed to pay for bicycle infrastructure, including for the cost of electricity to the illuminate this bicycle path, the one project chosen is one bicycle project too many.

  4. Simply because there is only there is only one bike/ped project from ODOT’s slice of the pie does not mean no other stimulus money is going to bike/ped projects. Local agencies will pick up a lot of stimulus funding as well – and they are buying bike/ped improvements.

    Not including ODOT’s I-205 path illumination upgrades, I count 10 projects on the list that are directly bike/ped related. $3.7 million is allocated for pedestrian improvements, not including the normal “upgrade ADA compliance” projects. $4.4 million is planned for bike related improvements.

    Include the single project from ODOT and we’re spending $10.5 million (about 4.3%) on bike/ped infrastructure.

  5. Terry –

    Are motorists directly taxed for the cost of electricity for street lighting? Or are motorists freeloaders in this regard by your standards?

    Of course, like most street lighting, the proposed ODOT project benefits pedestrians and local property owners as well as bicyclists. Are pedestrians and nearby property owners freeloaders too?

  6. Bob,

    I believe the electricity for lighting on separated highways like I-205, I-84, I-5, I-405, 217 & the Sunset (26) comes from state highway funding (gas taxes from motorists). The separated bike path in question parallels I-205.

  7. Terry:

    The funds being distributed in this case aren’t generated by fuel taxes, are they? As I understand it, these funds are being distributed by the federal government through the recently passed stimulus, which is supported equally by all taxpayers. Why bring up fuel taxes?

  8. Bob R. wrote: Are motorists directly taxed for the cost of electricity for street lighting? Or are motorists freeloaders in this regard by your standards?

    I can assure you, Bob and Terry, that my employer send a monthly bill to ODOT for electricity being used for the state highway system – street lighting, drawbridges, maintenance facilities, traffic lights…

    ODOT’s budget is almost entirely from vehicle-related fees/taxes — we send the bill to ODOT, not DAS. (I’m sure DAS gets a bill for other state buildings, but not street lighting systems.)

    As for the overall stimulus spending, IMO it’s a huge waste of money, but it’s approved – it’s a done deal.

    I don’t expect ODOT to spend the money on bike/ped projects — this is no different than demanding that the Oregon Department of Education spend money on libraries or even the University system – neither of which are a core component of the Department of Education. Or Parks & Rec being told to spend the money on school athletic fields. Bike/pedestrian improvements are largely local (read: city) projects, not ODOT related projects. So why is it expected that ODOT take money allocated to its legal function – and give it to areas outside of its jurisdiction?

    Under this logic, TriMet should be required to spend a portion of its funding on pedestrian improvements to bus stops. Where is the outcry from for this grave injustice towards pedestrian access to transit facilities???

  9. Erik, Terry — I said street lighting, not ODOT facility/highway lighting. I’m sure ODOT pays for lights. But I’m making a larger point about “freeloading” — who pays for the street lights?


    The City of Portland provides street lighting to all improved public streets within the City limits according to lighting standards. The City maintains and operates 53,614 street lights in Portland.

    Portland General Electric performs contract maintenance on 43,919 City-owned lights, or about 87% of all street lights. This costs the City approximately $5.1 million annually.

    The City maintains the remaining 9,695. Of those, 3,896 are specialized decorative street lights like the twin ornamental type in the Central Business District.

    So do motorists pay that $5.1 million from fuel taxes?

  10. Under this logic, TriMet should be required to spend a portion of its funding on pedestrian improvements to bus stops.


    Starting March 2 and continuing during the spring and summer of 2009, TriMet and ODOT will be making major improvements to several areas along Tualatin-Valley Highway (TV Hwy). Projects include improving pedestrian connections, improving bus stop accessibility and, in a few cases, adding bus shelters. These changes will make it safer and easier to access Line 57 bus stops along TV Hwy.

  11. Erik,

    Almost every point you tried to make is really off.

    1. Not all streetlights are paid for by vehicle taxes. In lots of places they are paid for with property tax. When I owned a house in unincorporated Washington county, we got an annual bill from the county for streetlighting.

    2. Bikes and Peds are a form of TRANSPORTATION and as such, the Oregon Department of TRANSPORTATION has some responsibility to account for them. Bikes and Peds do use ODOT facilities.

    3. I do not have any specifics but I am certain that the Oregon Education and University systems share money and resources. I know of high school programs that use college facilities. I know of college programs which use public parks. I know of elementary schools which use public libraries. They are all intertwined, and funded by however they can get money. It would be silly to try and separate them simply to make a point.

    4. Portland Parks does provide some facilities in conjunction with schools. Cleveland high school uses Portland Parks for atheletics practice. Woodstock elementary uses Portland park playgrounds. I am certain there are plenty examples of blending Portland Parks with Public schools. Again, silly to try and separate them.

    5. The Feds required the stimulus to be doled out by ODOT and all bids to be run by ODOT. The local jurisdictions would rather not have it that way.

    6. ODOT owns and maintains many highways within cities, which are “local”. Such as Powell, or 99E / 99W, or SE82nd, etc etc. They all carry Bikes and Peds. Additionally, how well the locals can maintain the surface streets and access to and from ODOT facilities has a huge impact on ODOT, thus they have a vested interest.

    7. Trimet DOES spend a portion of it’s money on pedestrian improvements at bus stops. And actually, in their application for stimulus money, some of their projects are actually aiming to spend money on pedestrian improvements on the way to bus stops which help people get TO bus stops, but are not actually at the stops themselves. And we HAVE complained a lot about many of Trimet’s poor bus stops.

  12. Bob R. wrote: So do motorists pay that $5.1 million from fuel taxes?

    Are you suggesting that only motorists receive the benefit of City owned streetlights? In which case why should motorists subsidize lighting used by Portland Parks facilities, used for residential neighborhood security and recreation (for pedestrians, bicyclists, children, etc.)?

    This is an important distinction, in that the function of city streets versus state highways dictates the funding source (although, as I was told by a PDOT manager, PDOT receives no general fund money for the maintenance of the city’s street system.) It can be assumed that in many communities the streets are maintained by property tax dollars, but those streets do not just serve motorists. They serve residents. Without the streets, the police, fire, public works, garbage, mail – don’t function. Pedestrians cannot walk around town. Children can’t get to school (whether by foot or by bus). Transit systems have nowhere to go. Without public streets, a city is meaningless, it’s nothing more than a group of adjacent property owners who must rely on each other for safe passage or face being landlocked.

    The state highway system doesn’t serve that same general purpose function. Its function is to operate a highway system to move people across the state, from city to city. Yes, there are some examples where ODOT’s system doesn’t exactly do that (82nd Avenue? Killingsworth Avenue? Barbur Boulevard? Powell Boulevard? TV Highway?) but that solution is quite simple to remedy by a change of jurisdiction (i.e. Sandy Blvd., Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, M.L.K. Jr. Blvd., Naito Parkway.)

    Resultingly, ODOT’s function is not to provide for every little transportation need. Just as TriMet’s mission is quite narrow compared to other transportation agencies – TriMet doesn’t maintain or plan a regional road or bridge system, it doesn’t even coordinate taxi services or vanpools. Portland Public Schools doesn’t run Portland Community College and vice-versa. And ODOT doesn’t generally provide pedestrian or bike improvements. The fact that there is ONE project should not be complained about, it should be applauded and welcomed.

    Back to Bob’s question. So what if it costs $5.1 million for city streetlighting? It’s a city function. Those lights do more than light streets. The fact that nearly 4,000 of the streetlights are “decorative” in nature underscores that lights are much more than just to provide light.

  13. The City of Portland pays electric bills for roadway lighting from the general fund. So to answer Bob’s question above, yes motorists are freeloaders, according to Terry Parker’s definition, i.e., benefiting from specialized infrastructure they are not taxed for.

  14. I think the biggest thing that gets really frustrating for me in this whole stupid “bicyclists don’t pay for infrastructure” argument, is that people get so adamant that they should never pay for anything they don’t use. What kind of an idea is that? If you want to live that way, go find a commune in the jungle somewhere. You joined a society that comes together for mutual benefit, and that means you have a responsibility to pitch in.

    I can always mention that cars do a whole lot more damage to the roads than bikes, and I pay for some of that damage through property taxes. I also pay physically for the pollution that overuse of cars causes, and I pay in travel time and stress because of the congestion they cause. I could also mention that almost everyone in Oregon who rides a bike also drives a car some or much of the time, therefore, they *do* pay in fuel taxes for the amount they use their car, just like everyone else does.

    Look, the main point is, if you live in an organized society, you can’t expect to only pay for things you use everyday. You subsidize things like public transportation, and even if you don’t use it, it helps you out by making the society as a whole better (less traffic, less pollution, better transport and more employment opportunities for low-income folks to name a few things). Seriously, if you’re that upset about having to pay a pretty minimal amount for things like that, find somewhere that you don’t have to.

  15. Are you suggesting that only motorists receive the benefit of City owned streetlights?

    No, I’m suggesting entirely the opposite — street lights benefit many people, even street lights parallel to freeways on multi-use trails paid for by stimulus dollars.

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