Tuesday, August 6, 2013

COMPASS wants you to comment, comment, and comment some more!

Does COMPASS really want you to comment, comment, and comment some more? Well, yes, but bear with me. There is a method to this seeming public comment madness.

Two of COMPASS’ primary responsibilities are developing the regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties (Communities in Motion) and developing the short-term (five-year) Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), or budget, of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects.

We update the TIP yearly, and amend it, if needed, throughout the year.  We update Communities in Motion every four years, and amend it, if needed, in between. We ask for input from the public as we update or amend the documents.

Timing this summer has given us a public comment “trifecta” – we are simultaneously asking for public comment on three things:
  • An amendment to the current regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2035)
  • The annual update of the TIP
  • Transportation needs and priorities for the next regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2040)

The timing of the three different processes has coalesced so that we’re asking for your input on everything at once. We hope this will make the public comment process easier – you can visit just one open house or go online just once to view and comment on all materials.

That said, we do recognize trying to comment on three different issues at the same time can be overwhelming. To try to help, I’ve briefly outlined the three issues below – separated according to the time frame of each issue– along with why each is open for comment now.    

Time Frame #1, Within One Year: 2014
COMPASS is proposing to amend the current regional long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion 2035) to widen Eagle Road (State Highway 55) in Meridian between River Valley Street and Interstate 84 and begin designing a project to widen US 20/26 between Smeed Parkway and Middleton Road near Caldwell. Both projects are already discussed in Communities in Motion 2035, but are listed as “unfunded.” The Eagle Road project would move from the “unfunded” list to the “funded” list of projects and the US Highway 20/26 project would move from the “unfunded” list to the “partially funded” list, as only the design portion of the project would be funded through this amendment and only covers a portion of the 20/26 corridor. Construction on Eagle Road and design work on US 20/26 would both begin in 2014.

Why Now? We are proposing to amend CIM 2035 now because a project must be listed as “funded” in the current regional long-range transportation plan before it can be built with federal funds. Funding has become available to begin these projects in FY2014 – before the next update to CIM will be complete. Additionally, the project must be shown as “funded” in CIM before it can be added to the TIP. These projects have been added to the draft FY2014-2018 TIP, but cannot be part of the final TIP unless CIM 2035 is amended. The draft FY2014 – 2018 TIP is out for public comment now (see below).

Time Frame #2, Within Five Years: 2014 - 2018
The draft FY2014-2018 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) – a five-year budget of federally funded transportation projects -- is also available now for public comment. This is a routine, yearly, update. Among many other projects, the draft TIP includes the two projects discussed above that are included in the proposed amendment to CIM 2035. Accompanying the TIP is the draft air quality conformity demonstration, which is required in areas, such as northern Ada County, where air quality standards have not been met in the past. The air quality conformity demonstration shows that transportation projects in the TIP will not degrade air quality.

Why Now? COMPASS updates the TIP on a yearly basis, to be adopted by the COMPASS Board before the beginning of the federal fiscal year, which is October 1.

Time Frame #3, 25 Years and Beyond: 2040
Communities in Motion 2035, discussed above, is the current regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon Counties. COMPASS is updating that plan to produce the next regional long-range transportation plan: Communities in Motion 2040 (CIM 2040).

For CIM 2040, the COMPASS Board has decided to focus federal transportation funding on maintenance to address an ever-increasing maintenance shortfall. Even though federal transportation funds will be directed toward maintenance, CIM 2040 still needs to contain a list of future transportation needs and priorities. These needs/priorities help the region focus future efforts and serve as a basis for potential future funding opportunities. COMPASS is looking for your feedback on transportation needs/priorities as shown on a prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects.

Why Now? The COMPASS Board is expected to act on this list of corridors and projects in September, and will be provided with your comments to take into consideration prior to taking any action. The full draft CIM 2040 plan will be available for public comment in spring 2014.

Comments must be submitted in writing and received no later than 12:00 pm (noon), Wednesday, September 4, 2013. Comment online or at an open house, or send comments to info@compassidaho.org or A. Luft, COMPASS, 700 NE 2nd Street, Meridian, ID  83642; or fax to 208/855-2559.

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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.