Open Letter to JPACT

[This letter was sent to our Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation this morning. We are excited to be working with such great partners. If you would like to get involved in the campaign, review our previous action alert and send your comments to Metro staff.]

October 10, 2012

Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation
Metro Regional Government
600 NE Grand Avenue
Portland, OR 97232

Re: Proposed 2015-18 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program

Dear Chair Collette and JPACT Members,

JPACT is currently deciding how to allocate $98.56 million in Regional Flexible Fund (RFF) transportation funds. We the undersigned group of cultural, environmental, economic development, business, consumer, public health, bicycling, land use, and walking organizations ask you to select Option 1. Through a robust public process in 2010, JPACT established that the best use of these funds was to allocate 75% to Active Transportation and Complete Streets and 25% to Green Economy and Freight. You also set in place valuable criteria regarding environmental justice. Both policy directions need to remain in place to be effective.

JPACT has been asked to re-examine this formula in light of the slowly recovering local economy, the need to attract private sector investment, and the need to provide transportation access to industrial sites. These are worthwhile goals, and none of them is inconsistent with maintaining the current JPACT allocation policy. While the amount of RFF funds is relatively small, given their flexibility in use, this is one of the region’s most important sources of multi-modal funding.

Research shows that more jobs are created per million dollars invested in bicycling and walking projects than in new roadway construction[1]. Just as importantly, investments in safe and accessible infrastructure for biking, walking, and transit provides more affordable ways for people to get around, leaving them more money to spend[2], and frees up road capacity for freight movement.

JPACT’s existing policy sets specific criteria that applicants must meet for their transportation projects regarding equity and environmental justice. These criteria address impacts as well as benefits and represent an enormous step forward in acknowledging and addressing inequities in our current decision making structure. As a region we must remain committed to equity, safety, and accessibility and we expect JPACT to uphold these values that benefit everyone. While there’s more work to be done to ensure that the criteria apply along the life of a project, the extensive community engagement from the last round is a significant foundation. To set that work aside and use the same sources of funding for different purposes, after only one round of funding, undermines confidence in the system and devalues the efforts of jurisdictions, advocates, and community organizations to develop and apply the criteria.

It is far better to focus our limited transportation dollars on building affordable, healthy, and environmentally friendly infrastructure that increases our communities’ transportation options than to spend more on highways and roads that don’t solve the transportation problems of our communities and businesses. The old way of doing business simply isn’t good enough anymore.

Please maintain the existing 75%/25% allocation that prioritizes active transportation and complete streets, and please maintain the environmental justice criteria when allocating the 2015 – 2018 Regional Flexible Funds.

Sincerely,

Ron Carley, Executive Director, Coalition for a Livable Future

Gerald Cohen, Oregon State Director, AARP

Chris Hagerbaumer, Deputy Director, Oregon Environmental Council

Heather McCarey, Executive Director, Westside Transportation Alliance

Julia Meier, Director, Coalition of Communities of Color

Jason Miner, Executive Director, 1000 Friends of Oregon

Doug Moore, Executive Director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Jon Ostar, Executive Director, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Mel Rader, Co-Director, Upstream Public Health

Andrew Riley, Public Policy Director, Center for Intercultural Organizing

Steph Routh, Executive Director, Willamette Pedestrian Coalition

Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

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