A New Way of Making Sausage for the MTIP

The Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (or MTIP) is the basic spending plan for transportation in our region.

Most of the funds involved are programed quite proscriptively, but in each two-year cycle there are several tens of millions of dollars that are truly flexible, we can spend them as we choose. The result is intense competition for these funds.

When I served on TPAC, I got to see a couple of rounds of this process. It was a combination of merit and politics. Projects in each modal category were scored on the basis of policy criteria established by JPACT and the Metro Council. But the allocation of money between modes was more subjective and in the end another filter of “geographic equity” was also applied.

“Geographic equity” was a code word for making sure each JPACT member got to bring home the bacon.

In recent years, this shifted somewhat and JPACT and Metro Council have given advanced guidance on the modal split. This has largely been to the benefit of active transportation projects, although this year freight interests played the jobs card and attempted to grab a significant share of the funds, losing narrowly on a split vote at JPACT.

Now we have a new wrinkle: as reported on Bike Portland, a committee is being appointed to recommend which projects to fund (as I understand it, within the modal split that has already been established).

I’m not sure if this is an improvement – will it diminish the ‘bring home the bacon’ factor and fund the most impactful projects, or is it just a different way to balance the political interests? Time will tell.

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