It's quarterly update time with city councils in Washington County District 4!
Category: planning and policy
The fenced-off empty lot next to Eichler Park in Beaverton may look about the same as it has for years. But for staff at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, the unassuming enclosure, formerly a gas station, just became a lot more promising.
If you had a budget, a marker in hand, and a map of the region before you, where would you draw transit lines, and how often would you want them to run? At a community planning forum in Tigard last week, TriMet and Metro asked community members this question, putting them into a transportation planner's world through a participatory planning exercise.
Representatives of the Climate Smart Communities Scenarios Project brought their latest report to the Metro Policy Advisory Committee Wednesday night, and to the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation Thursday morning. Both committees are made up of leaders from around the Portland region.
The approval of the allocation of Regional Flexible Funds for 2016-2018 was expected, but it came with a rebuke of state highway funding priorities from one Metro councilor.
The plans, developed through years of discussions with members of the public, community advocates and cities in the southwest part of the region, are the bones of what regional officials hope will be a robust body of development in the Southwest Corridor.
About 71 percent of a $227.4 million natural areas bond measure has been invested, according to the latest report from the Natural Areas Program Performance Oversight Committee. The committee said Metro is on track to meet goals in three major areas: buying regional natural areas, supporting local nature projects and awarding community grants.
Metro’s Transportation Policy Alternatives Committee, or TPAC, is seeking volunteers interested in transportation issues. Three community-member appointments are open for two-year terms starting in January. Applications will be accepted until Oct. 18, 2013. The Metro Council expects to make the appointments in November.
The Metro Council approved the third round of Community Planning and Development Grants on Aug. 15. Twenty projects across the region received funding for a total of $4.2 million. These grants will assist cities and counties in getting specific areas ready for development that brings increased housing options and more jobs for their residents.
A plan to integrate the region's network of trails and bike paths hit a detour this week, with most of the region's mayors expressing concern that the plan could turn into a mandate.
In a letter to Metro Council President Tom Hughes, 21 of the region's 25 mayors, who represent about a third of the region's residents, said the region's Active Transportation Plan is a valuable effort.
"It acknowledges the necessary safety, health and economic vitality components, and specifically works to balance the pedestrian, bicycle, transit freight and motor vehicle needs in the future," the letter said.
But, the mayors said, the plan contains five policies of concern, primarily related to local control over implementation of active transportation planning.
Read the mayors' letter (PDF)
"Leave matters of implementation to local decision makers," the mayors say. "Neither the ATP nor its policies, goals or guidelines should be tied to federal funding." They also suggested that road narrowing projects are unpopular and questioned the mandatory nature of policies.
From left, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey talk after Wednesday's meeting of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee. Truax and Willey, along with 19 other mayors, co-signed a letter asking for changes to the Regional Active Transportation Plan; Hales and three other mayors declined to sign it.
They pointed to Action Item 2.10 of the draft Active Transportation Plan, which called for Metro to update the region's transportation plans "to include requirements that will implement the recommended networks and policies of the ATP."
At a meeting of regional leaders Wednesday, interim Metro planning director Steve Wheeler said the Active Transportation Plan does not mandate specific project funding. But, he said, the plan will remain in draft form until mid-2014 to give regional leaders more time to review it.
He said the language in item 2.10 has been "softened." A list of changes to the plan, as of Wednesday, included a number of places where local input had been called out.
"That needs to be absolutely emphasized, how much we appreciate it when, instead of 'implement,' you say 'support,'" Willey said. "Instead of 'include' you say 'encourage.' All of those words imply you're much more receptive to all the regional input that I think needs to happen."
Clackamas County Commissioner Martha Schrader stressed that there is a local component to the regional plan. She said that Clackamas County and Metro should collaborate to ensure that there's adequate citizen input into the plan.
"For example, the Boring CPO is one of our really big centers for trails. They're also, bless their hearts, one of our most vocal groups of folks that can really get themselves up in arms," Schrader said. "How we approach this within our jurisdiction is going to have to be in a really direct way, including these people, or I can guarantee you we will be fomenting rebellion."
Four of the region's mayors did not sign the letter: Beaverton's Denny Doyle, Johnson City's Kay Mordock, Portland's Charlie Hales and West Linn's John Kovash, who collectively represent about 705,000 of the region's 1.5 million residents. The mayors who signed the letter collectively represent about 507,000 people.
After the meeting, Hales said he didn't sign the letter because he didn't think the plan is prescriptive, and that people who are walking or riding bikes don't pay attention to city boundaries.
"They want to get from here to there, so Metro's doing what it needs to do in this case, which is lay down those maps of existing conditions and needed improvements in each mode," Hales said. "I'm not interested in any erosion of that basic principle."
He said some of his mayoral colleagues have an "underlying fear of Metro's authority."
"In this case, it's just the authority to get us to work together," Hales said. "I was just talking to a couple of the mayors after the meeting, and I think the revisions we've made to the draft have calmed those fears enough. I hope so."
The Metro Council still has to vote on part of the plan next month. Councilor Craig Dirksen explained to MPAC members Wednesday night that the council has to acknowledge the work that's been done on the plan, as part of a federal grant process.
'We're not looking for confirmation, approval or even acceptance of the plan, but just an acknowledgement of the work that's been done up until now with that grant money," Dirksen said.
Could bikes be the key to reaching climate goals? (Dec. 26, 2012)
Planners moving toward regional look at active transportation (Feb. 6, 2012)
Grant funds project to create a Regional Active Transportation Plan (July 6, 2011)