Thursday, September 27, 2012

Communities in Motion: Why Do You Care? Part IV

This is another installment in my series of blogs about why people care, or should care, about long-range transportation planning in general and Communities in Motion in particular.

We have been asking people – private individuals, members of COMPASS advisory committees, and YOU – this question. I have committed to sharing those reasons with you each quarter in my blog. This is my fourth installment.

Why people care about Communities in Motion 2040, as submitted by you:
  • Look at how far off “future-related” fiction has been (think of the book 1984 and the movie Back to the Future II, which takes place in 2015!). We don’t want to rely on fiction – we need to plan for the future of our valley as we want it to be.
  • It is like a “to-do” list for the Treasure Valley’s transportation projects.
  • Because things like the East Park Center Bridge in Boise, the Karcher Interchange in Nampa, and the Ten-Mile Interchange in Meridian wouldn’t exist without old long-range transportation plans.
  • Because we’ll have over a million people in 2040. If we don’t plan, it will be chaos!
To share why you think Communities in Motion 2040 is important ― why you care ― email and we’ll post your ideas here. The next installment will be posted the beginning of January. Help me out – I need to hear from you to have “reasons” to share here. Thanks!

Monday, September 10, 2012

No, it isn’t all about I-84…

As you read the news, and even my blog below, you may get the impression that all the transportation funding in the Treasure Valley is being used along Interstate 84 in Ada County.

I want to set the record straight: that is not the case.

While the potential of rebuilding three interchanges along I-84 is getting a lot of press, don’t let that fool you into thinking those interchanges are the only projects happening in the Treasure Valley or the only projects included in the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). (The TIP is the budget that shows where federal transportation dollars will be spent over the next five years in the Treasure Valley; the draft TIP project list for FY2013-2017 is currently open for public comment.) 

At a quick glance, I counted over 250 projects that will occur in Canyon and Ada Counties within the life span of the draft FY2013-2017 TIP. Some are big; some are small. Some build or purchase new things; some are for maintenance or repair. Some are for roads; some are for transit, walking, or biking. While they may not be garnering as much attention as the interstate projects, they are no less important.

Let me briefly highlight just a few of these projects, along with when and where* they will occur…

  • Nampa. Widen Amity Road from Chestnut Street to Kings Corner from four to five lanes.
  • Eagle. Widen State Highway 44 from Linder Road to Ballantyne Road, including improving the intersection of Linder Road and State Highway 44.
  •  Boise Urbanized Area (northern Ada County). Improve transit stops by adding amenities such as shelters, benches, lighting, landing pads, waste disposal, and bicycle racks.

  • Canyon County. Replace the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge at the junction of US 20/26.
  • Meridian. Add raised pavement markings on Fairview Road from Mitchell Street to Meridian Road and on State Street from Glenwood Street to Collister Drive to improve safety.
  • Nampa. Provide bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to connect neighborhoods in southeast and north Nampa to the downtown area and to transit transfer stations.
  •  Ada County. Purchase two seven-passenger minivans to expand the Commuteride vanpool program.

  • Caldwell. Replace the Plymouth Street Bridge with a new two-lane bridge (the existing bridge will remain in place and used for bicycles and pedestrians).
  •  Boise. Rebuild the Broadway Bridge over the Boise River.
  • Boise Urbanized Area (northern Ada County). Purchase replacement transit buses.

  • Caldwell. Widen 21st Avenue from Chicago Avenue to Cleveland Boulevard from two to five lanes; upgrade sidewalks, traffic signals, and railroad crossings at the same time.
  • Meridian. Widen Franklin Road from two lanes to five lanes from Black Cat Road to Ten Mile Road, including reconstructing the intersection of Franklin Road and Black Cat Road and adding curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities along Franklin Road.
  • Boise State University. Purchase replacement shuttle buses

  • Middleton. Construct a new roadway segment to link State Highway 44 and Middleton Road by way of Sawtooth Lake Drive.

Want to see the rest?  Find the complete draft TIP project list for Canyon and Ada Counties for FY2013-2017 at Take a moment and submit your comments on the project list before public comment closes at 5:00 pm, Tuesday, September 25, 2012.

(*This list shows where the projects will occur. This is not an indication of what agency(s) is/are building, providing financial match, or receiving funding for the project.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

$180 Million. Where did all that money come from...and what does it mean for you?

If you’ve been tracking transportation issues in the news, chances are you’ve heard that the Idaho Transportation Board voted in July to “expedite” approximately $180 million in road construction projects in the next five years, including four projects in the Treasure Valley – reconstructing I-84 interchanges at Meridian Road, Broadway Avenue, and Gowen Road, and restoring four miles of pavement along I-84 between Meridian Road and Five Mile Road.

While most people I’ve talked to seem to be thrilled with the possibility of these projects, they also have a lot of questions: What exactly does “expediting” projects mean?  Where did all of the money come from? What does this mean to me?

I’ll try to tackle these here.

First, what does it mean to “expedite” a project? “Expediting” simply means that the projects will be built sooner than previously planned. For example, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) had planned to restore four miles of pavement on Interstate 84 between the Meridian Road Interchange and Five Mile Road in 2016, but now that project has been expedited and will occur in late 2012. ITD had not planned to reconstruct any more interchanges on I-84 in the foreseeable future; now they are proposing to do three in the next few years.

Second, where did all that money come from? ITD had said it didn’t have any money for these types of road projects. What happened? $180 million dollars is a lot of money to simply “appear” out of nowhere.

Many factors come into play. This is one case where the “great recession” has actually yielded something good. Recent construction projects have come in under budget due to the recession driving down costs, resulting in cost savings that can be spent on other projects. Additionally, projected inflation rates have decreased from 5% to 2%, which means that future projects should cost less than had been anticipated. Projected interest rates have had a similar decrease. ITD has also been tightening its belt, which has resulted in some additional cost savings. These types of current and projected savings yield a total of about $100 million; the additional $80 million will come from GARVEE bonds, as recent GARVEE-funded projects have also come in under budget.

Finally, how does this affect COMPASS, and even more importantly, how does it affect you?  The construction projects will be paid for with your tax dollars. As a taxpayer, you have a say in how that money is spent. In addition, the projects – both during and post-construction – will affect your travels if you drive along Interstate 84 or cross over I-84 at any of the three interchanges that may be rebuilt. You have a chance to say if you want this or not.

Take a few minutes to comment on these projects and share your opinions through the annual Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) public comment period (August 27 – September 25). This is your chance to comment on all projects, including these four, which are budgeted to be completed with federal funding in the Treasure Valley in the next five years. Click here for more information and to comment.

Because the three interchange rebuilds were not anticipated, COMPASS needs additional input from you on those. When COMPASS develops its long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion), it can only include projects with a reasonable likelihood of being funded as part of the planned transportation system – those projects are on the “funded” list of projects and are the projects Communities in Motion plans for. Other needed projects are still discussed in the plan, but are identified as “unfunded” or “partially funded.” The Meridian Interchange rebuild is considered “unfunded” in the plan and the Broadway and Gowen interchanges are the unfunded portions of a larger “partially funded” corridor.

So, why does that matter? Any project that receives federal transportation funds (which all three interchange projects will) must be planned for in the long-range transportation plan. While the projects are discussed in Communities in Motion, the fact that they are not listed as “funded” means they are not “planned for” in Communities in Motion. Therefore, COMPASS must amend Communities in Motion to show them as part of the funded plan for them to be built. Concurrent with the TIP public comment period, public comment on this proposed amendment to Communities in Motion is open from August 27 through September 25. Again, click here for more information and to comment.

Every year, I encourage individuals to take time to comment on the TIP. It is a chance to have a say in how your tax dollars will be spent. I encourage you to do that again. However, this year is even more significant than most, with three unanticipated interchange reconstruction projects potentially being added to both the TIP and Communities in Motion. These projects have the potential to significantly affect you; take a moment to have your say.

Monday, August 6, 2012

It Takes a Village...and a Leader

You’ve probably heard the saying, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” I’ve heard that sentiment applied to all sorts of situations, from raising children to caring for pets, and I’m going to expand on that even further now.

It takes a regional “village” to achieve the goals of Communities in Motion.  

Does that sound a bit sappy or far-fetched?  Maybe so, but read on.

The goals of Communities in Motion 2035 are:

·         Connections: Provide options for safe access and mobility in a cost-effective manner in the region.

·         Coordination: Achieve better inter-jurisdictional coordination of transportation and land use planning.

·         Environment: Minimize transportation impacts to people, cultural resources, and the environment.

·         Information: Coordinate data gathering and dispense better information.

In addition, Communities in Motion 2035 supports:

·         Balance between housing and jobs
·         Choices in housing types
·         Choices in transportation and shorter commuting distance
·         Connectivity through higher densities
·         Preservation of open space and farmland

None of these are things that one agency, one jurisdiction, or one person can accomplish alone. They take cooperation and teamwork. They take compromise and sometime even sacrifice for the greater good. They take a regional “village.”

However, they also take leaders. If everyone were to sit back and wait for other “villagers” to take the lead, make the hard decisions, or get their hands dirty, we would get nowhere.

That is why I encourage you to submit your nominations for this year’s COMPASS Leadership in Motion awards.

Who are those leaders who are the catalyst for moving our regional “village” forward? How are they supporting region-wide cooperation and implementation of Communities in Motion? How are they setting an example for other “villagers”?

Learn more about the Leadership in Motion awards and submit your nominations at Six awards will be presented in five categories:

·         Leadership by Example, Ada County and Canyon County (two awards; one per county each for a specific project)
·         Leadership in Private Business
·         Leadership in Practice, Professional
·         Leadership in Practice, Volunteer
·         Leadership by Example, Elected Official

Who is taking the lead to move our regional “village” forward? Tell us by submitting your Leadership in Motion nomination. Nominations must be received no later than 5:00 pm, Friday, September 21, 2012.

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.