Oregon Metro, the Portland area’s regional government, is currently finalizing funding recommendations for the active transportation and freight project applications to the Regional Flexible Fund Allocation (RFFA). RFFA is money from the federal government that can be used for a wide range of transportation projects across the Portland region – considered “flexible” because the funds are not restricted to projects on highways. In this round, $33 million is available for transportation projects, including walking, bicycling, access to schools and transit, with a quarter of the funds directed to freight-specific projects:
- $25.81 million for active transportation/complete streets projects that make it safer and easier for people to walk, ride bicycles or get to transit and other destinations such as school and work.
- $7.34 million for regional freight investments, projects that improve access to freight hubs and industrial areas and improve safety on freight routes.
Thirty-two projects were submitted to this 2019-21 RFFA cycle from cities and counties across the region, including 27 projects to the Active Transportation/Complete Streets funding stream. Total funding requested across all projects totaled more than $100 million, far exceeding the amount available. The vast majority of the funding requests were for Active Transportation/Complete Streets projects, totaling approximately $93 million and demonstrating a significant need for more funding for walking and bicycling projects in this region.
Scoring: Metro released the technical scores (XLS) and rankings (PDF) in autumn 2016, and staff and policy committees have since been refining which projects will fall “above” and “below” the line for funding. The projects each received a technical score that reflected the project’s score against the application criteria; a corresponding technical score ranking; summary of public comments (number of comments for/against); and any sub-regional (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties, and the City of Portland) prioritization for the project (yes/no).
Incorporation of public comment: One staff proposal had the project list scored on technical merit alone, but Metro’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) agreed that public comment should be weighed in the decision-making process. Read Metro’s Engagement Report on RFFA public comment.
Sub-regional priority: Despite more than half the projects receiving priority from their sub-region, given available funding, Metro placed the cutoff line at ten of the 27 submitted Active Transportation/Complete Streets projects, and four of the five submitted freight projects. Several of these above the line projects are also facing voluntary or recommended budget cuts from their RFFA request, calling into question the impact of coming reductions to some project scopes.
Safe Routes to School: We were pleased to see projects benefiting Safe Routes to School called out as criteria in the application materials as RFFA-eligible via Active Transportation/Complete Streets funding. Three submitted project applications would directly benefit Safe Routes to School needs, and at least 40% of submitted projects mentioned school access in the project description. Unfortunately, none of the Safe Routes to School projects made it above the line based on technical merit; however, the incorporation of public comment into the assessment shifted the initial project list and brought one Safe Routes to School-focused project above the line: Brentwood-Darlington Safe Routes to School, in the City of Portland, received nearly 2,000 comments, 100% positive, and is recommended to be funded as a part of the RFFA awards.
Proposed funding award: $2,200,000 (to be confirmed)
Geographic Distribution: 1.6 million people live in the Metro region. Non-Portland Multnomah County has 10% of the region’s population; Clackamas County, 18%; Washington County, 34%; and City of Portland, 39%. There are no sub-regional distribution requirements, therefore funding awards do not necessarily correlate to the region’s population.
NOTE: At the TPAC meeting on January 6, 2017, committee members discussed whether a requested change to the recommended project list should move forward – swapping “Complete Cleveland Street” in for “Complete Division Street” (both projects from City of Gresham). Division Street is a regionally significant street, is poised for major transit investment in the coming years, is recognized as a high-crash street greatly in need of safety fixes, and there have been several tragic fatalities on Division in the past month alone. Gresham’s representatives state Cleveland Street is a higher local priority and with a lower price tag that would allow the total RFFA funding to balance. TPAC punted the decision to JPACT, who will take up the decision at their January 19 meeting.
Next Steps: Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will meet on January 19 to take up TPAC’s recommended project list, including a policy decision on Gresham’s Cleveland vs. Division projects. JPACT is expected to approve the RFFA project list at the January meeting, and it will then move to Metro Council for final approval.