City Council just sat down to discuss and vote on the 2030 Bike Plan. The room is much more empty and subdued than during last week's bike plan BUILD IT rally here at City Hall, when public testimony on the plan ran over two hours and council voted to table their final vote for another week.
I'll be liveblogging from here and on Twitter, but it seems like the discussion will be a little slow going. Check out the live feed of Tweets from the hearing:
3:20 pm I take it back! This hearing isn't slow at all! Mayor Sam Adams just announced $20 million in "kickstart" funds for the plan. Details below the cut.
The big debate today will likely be on Commissioner Saltzman's surprise amendment to the plan which proposes a funding option. As BikePortland reported, Saltzman's idea to direct some public utility license fees raised the feathers of other Commissioners, not so much because it's a bad idea (bike advocates think it could actually work) but because he did not run it past the other commissioners before pitching it to the public at last week's hearing.
When asked whether or not he’d support the Saltzman amendment, Commissioner Randy Leonard shared these thoughts with me via email today:
“I may have considered the amendment if Commissioner Saltzman had briefed Mayor Adams and the rest of the council before he made his proposed amendment but given he chose not to do so, I believe we need to better understand the implications of what Commissioner Saltzman proposed.”
3:17 PM OH SNAP! No Commissioner would offer a second for Saltzman's funding amendment. It fails in moments with a solid whack of Sam Adam's gavel.
Adams says he'll announce a plan within 30 days to offer a one-time $20 million in ‘kick start’ funding pot for the bike plan. He says the money will come from savings in the contracts for the Big Pipe and Bureau of Environmental Services contracts. “It shows our support for getting going with a bang,” says Adams.
If that magical $20 million actually exists, Adams basically just shouted, "Build It!"
3:23 PM Commissioner Fritz says she's heard both concern about the $600 million bike plan pricetag and support for that amount. “Those people who would never get on a bike, will never get on a bike and are kind of miffed that other people will get on a bike, it’s still in their best interest to fund safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities," says Fritz. "We want safe streets in our neighborhoods.”
She votes yes.
3:27 pm Commissioner Nick Fish's kid just got his first bike. Cute. He votes yes.
Dan Saltzman says, "If we figured out the funding before we start something, we'd never have street cars. You have to be ambitious and shoot for the stars." But he also cautions that as the director of the Bureau of Environmental Services, he'll need to examine Adams' "kickstart" funding idea first. Sounds like he's smarting over his funding fail. He votes yes.
3:31 pm Unlike Saltzman, Mayor Adams definitely cleared his surprise kickstart funding idea with his co-commissioners first. Randy Leonard calls the idea "ingenious" before voting yes on the plan. Looks like it's going to be a unanimous 5-0 vote. BIKE PLAN FOR THE WIN!
3:59 pm Now about that $20 million… where will it materialize from exactly?
Mayor Adams’ spokesman Roy Kaufmann says the details sources for that $20 million will be revealed within the next 30 days. Until then, just know that it’s coming from “savings on contracts with the Bureau of Environmental Services” and will be spent over the next 24 months.
Kaufmann defended the decision to announcing the kickstart fund even when all the details are shaky at best. “The funding mechanism for the plan has certainly gotten a lot of attention,” says Kaufmann. “This will jumpstart the plan so that people really see there’s momentum.”
Departing Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) advocate Michelle Poyourow said no one in city hall had told her about the kickstart fund, but she has heard discussion over the past year about significant savings on construction contracts of the kind Adams referenced. “I’ve heard people saying that because of the recession, construction costs this year are down and bids are coming in lower. If they choose to do more with less and direct those savings toward the bike plan, that’s excellent,” says Poyourow. “I’m very happy with this kickstart fund, it’s a pleasant surprise. There’s $7 million in the capital budget for bike projects next year, so bumping that up to $20 million would be a big advancement.”
The BTA plans to track commitment to that $20 million and all other bike plan funding on its BUILD IT website.
Though he voted for the bike plan, Saltzman was a little sore that Adams killed his funding idea and instead proposed his own kickstart fund idea with broad support. “I think to the extent that Sam was mad at me because I didn’t vet my idea with him, this idea is similarly unvetted,” Saltzman told The Mercury after the vote.
Update 4:55 pm Okay, a conversation with the Mayor’s Transportation Director Catherine Ciarlo yields more details about that $20 million kickstart.
The plan is to dedicate an extra $2 million annually over the next 10 years into the city’s Green Streets program. The Green Streets program builds those curb extension bioswales that are popping up around town and, conveniently, those curb extensions that the city fills with plants to absorb storm water are also good at slowing down car traffic and making streets safer for bikes. Ciarlo says Green Streets and the city’s bike planners have been working together for months to figure out how to combine their projects.
If the city digs up the extra $2 million a year for Green Streets, Ciarlo says that money would be used only to build new storm water-absorbing, traffic-slowing infrastructure on bike boulevards. “Those curb extensions are often the most expensive pieces of the bike boulevard projects, so that frees up money to spend on parking and signals,” says Ciarlo.
So was this actually an idea the staff has worked out over months, rather than just a quickly sketched response to Saltzman’s own funding proposal? Ciarlo says, “Seeing the incredible enthusiasm of Council and Saltzman to dedicate some funding, Sam said, ‘If there’s council appetite to dedicate a steady stream of revenue, let’s set up something now.””