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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Communities in Motion 2040: Focus on Maintenance

A prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects for Communities in Motion 2040 (CIM 2040) is open for public comment through noon on Wednesday, September 4. These corridors were identified through an analysis of transportation system needs by the year 2040. In general, they represent improvements to, or expansion of, the current transportation system.

However, financial projections indicate there will not be enough revenue in the future to maintain our current transportation system, much less expand it. Therefore, the COMPASS Board of Directors has chosen to focus all federal transportation funding allocated via CIM 2040 toward maintenance.

What does that mean, and how does it relate to the projects and needs currently open for public comment?

For the purpose of allocating funding through CIM, “maintenance” has been defined as “protecting and preserving existing transportation systems and opportunities.Existing transportation systems include roadways, public transportation, and alternative transportation infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles. The federal funding for local projects will be split (for maintenance) between roadways (82%), public transportation (15%), and planning/special projects (3%). Some “off the top” funding will also be allocated to Ada County Highway District’s Commuteride program and to COMPASS, before the funds are split.

The prioritized list of 33 transportation corridors and projects focus on improving, or expanding, the system (therefore, not maintenance), and are still vitally important. CIM 2040 must show future transportation needs and priorities. While these needs and priorities will be “unfunded” in the plan, they will help the region focus future efforts and serve as a starting point when looking at potential future funding opportunities.

The list was developed by assessing future growth as shown in the Communities in Motion 2040 Vision, and running a “deficiency analysis” to see which corridors will likely be the most congested as we grow. Current and future issues surrounding those corridors and the potential future transit system were summarized and the Communities in Motion 2040 Planning Team used that information to rank the corridors/projects in priority order from priority #1 (improvements along I-84 from Centennial Way to Franklin Boulevard in Canyon County) to priority #33 (build a connection between Beacon Light Road and Purple Sage Road, crossing the Ada/Canyon County line).

I encourage you to weigh in on the prioritized list of projects and corridors. Do you agree or disagree with the priorities? Why? We’ll pass your comments along to the COMPASS Board to consider before they act on this list and it becomes part of the draft CIM 2040 plan. The full draft CIM 2040 plan will be available for public comment in spring 2014. Click here to submit your comments – due by noon, Wednesday, September 4.




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why Does COMPASS Keep Amending Communities in Motion?

A proposed amendment to Communities in Motion 2035 is currently open for public comment; comments will be accepted through noon, Wednesday, September 4, 2013.

The proposed amendment would add two projects to the “funded” list of projects in CIM 2035 – road widening on Eagle Road in Meridian and design of a road widening project on US Highway 20/26 near Caldwell. (Technically, the US 20/26 project would be listed as “partially funded,” since only the design work – not construction – is proposed for funding through this amendment and the project only encompasses part of the corridor.)

CIM 2035 has already been amended twice to add four other projects to the “funded” list of projects in the plan – rebuilding Interstate 84 interchanges at Gowen Road, Broadway Avenue, and Meridian Road, and widening Interstate 84 between Gowen Road and Broadway Avenue.

So, what’s up? Why do we keep amending CIM? After all, it will be updated next year, and we haven’t amended our other long-range transportation plans this frequently. CIM 2030 was only amended once, to add just one project. Why so many amendments now?

If a transportation project is going to be funded with federal funding it must be listed as “funded” in the long-range transportation plan, be included in the Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and potentially undergo an air quality conformity demonstration. However, long-range transportation plans must be fiscally constrained, meaning we can only plan for, or list as “funded,” projects that our financial projections show we can reasonably afford. Everything else must be placed on an “unfunded” list, meaning that the need has been identified, but there isn’t funding to pay for it. Some projects also end up on a “partially funded” list meaning that only part of a larger project or corridor is funded (if the CIM 2035 amendment is approved, US 20/26 will be on a “partially funded” list because the project proposed for funding is narrower in scope than what is listed in the plan). When financial situations change, plans need to be amended to reflect that.

That is what is happening with CIM 2035. The plan was adopted in 2010, and its financial forecast was developed in 2009. The financial situation was tenuous in 2009 and the financial forecast was bleak. The number of projects funded in the plan was significantly reduced from the previous plan.

However, two things have happened since then. First, the “Great Recession” caused construction prices to drop, in some cases significantly. This resulted in cost savings, meaning projects came in under budget, which left “extra” money that could be put toward previously unfunded projects. This was the case with the three interchange reconstruction projects. Second, as the economy has rebounded, development has picked up. The new Meridian Town Center development at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Eagle Road, under development now after delays due to the recession, is what spurred the need for the widening along Eagle Road.

Interestingly enough, this same Meridian Town Center development is what triggered the need for the same widening project on Eagle Road and the amendment to CIM 2030; however, when the economy crashed the development, and the widening project, were delayed, and the project reverted to “unfunded” in CIM 2035. The development is now underway, and the widening is again scheduled, triggering the proposed amendment. Most of the project is initially being funded by the developer, who will later be paid back through “Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue.” You can learn more about this at http://www.compassidaho.org/prodserv/cim2035.htm.

Widening US 20/26 came about for a different reason altogether, though economic conditions and opportunities have set the stage. In a proposed agreement with the City of Caldwell, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), who manages US 20/26, would widen the road between Smeed Parkway and Middleton Road and the City of Caldwell would take over long-term maintenance of a different ITD road – a business loop route through Caldwell. This proposed agreement has allowed the US 20/20 project to move into the design phase and helps ITD fulfill its mission of enhancing mobility and supporting economic opportunities. The project will support economic growth in the city’s new Foreign Trade Zone. Design work for the US Highway 20/26 widening project will begin in 2014; however, construction for this project is not yet funded.

However, CIM will be updated next year. Why don’t we just wait and add the projects then? The short answer is, “we can’t.”

Projects with federal funding cannot be initiated unless they are in the TIP. Projects cannot be added to the TIP without first being listed in the long-range transportation plan as part of the “funded” transportation system. Projects must appear in the TIP when they are scheduled and budgeted – whenever an agency will begin to spend funds on that project, even if the funds are not for the actual construction, such as the case with this US 20/26 amendment. So, if an unanticipated project is scheduled to occur in the near future and belongs in the TIP, CIM must be amended first. It can’t wait for a regularly scheduled CIM update. 

Confusing? Yes. Bureaucracy? Maybe. But the process serves a purpose – it ensures that improvements are carefully considered, prioritized, and planned, and that public input is considered, prior to making decisions on projects that cost millions of dollars and affect the lives of everyone using the transportation system. Please take time to submit your comments on proposed CIM 2035 amendment by September 4.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

TAP in the TIP

Yes, it sounds like we’re about to tiptoe (or tap dance?) through the tulips. But, word play aside, putting some TAP into the TIP is a good thing for the Treasure Valley. The “TIP” is the Regional Transportation Improvement Program; a five-year budget of federally funded and regionally significant transportation projects in Ada and Canyon Counties. The draft FY2014 – 2018 TIP is open for public comment through noon on Wednesday, September 4.

“TAP” stands for “Transportation Alternatives Program,” and is a new (ish) funding stream developed under MAP-21, the federal transportation law passed in July 2012. TAP funds are meant for alternative transportation projects, such as developing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, managing Safe Routes to Schools programs, and improving transportation infrastructure to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The reason I say it is “new-ish” is that it is actually a combination of three old funding streams ― Recreational Trails, Enhancements, and Safe Routes to School. However, the implications to the Treasure Valley are greater than just a combining and renaming old programs. I’ve outlined a few of the more significant impacts below:

-          TAP funds provide funding that was previously not available in Idaho. In 2008, the Idaho Transportation Board voted not to allocate “enhancement” funding in Idaho. Prior to 2008, enhancement funds had been available for projects such as sidewalks and landscaping for transportation projects. But, since 2008, federal funds had not been available for those types of projects. The Idaho Transportation Board voted to allocate TAP funding for its intended use in June 2013, meaning funding is again available for alternative transportation projects. This is good news for all of Idaho, and locally will primarily affect the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural parts of both Ada and Canyon Counties.

-          “Transportation Management Areas” (TMAs) will receive their own TAP funds. A TMA is an urbanized area with a population over 200,000. The Boise Urbanized Area (generally encompassing northern Ada County) is the only TMA in Idaho. As a TMA, the Boise Urbanized Area will be directly allocated approximately $414,000 in TAP funds each year.

-          Safe Routes to Schools funding has now been lumped into TAP. Previously, Safe Routes to Schools had its own “dedicated” funding. Now, Safe Routes programs must compete with other programs and projects for funding. In addition, a 7.5% “match” of local dollars is now required for Safe Routes to Schools projects; before, no match was required. This has caused some concern for Safe Routes to Schools advocates, as its funding is less secure from year to year. However, Safe Routes to Schools was the top priority for TAP funding in the COMPASS planning area and is funded in the FY2014 - 2018 TIP.

We have already witnessed the great demand for these funds. In July, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) solicited applications for TAP projects statewide. A total of 89 applications were submitted, totaling over $14 million. Unfortunately, those applicants are competing for only $3 million, so many quality projects will not be funded. For the Boise Urbanized Area, 18 applications were submitted totaling approximately $4.6 million to be spent over fiscal years 2013 - 2018; all competing for approximately $414,000 per year, or $2.48 million over the six-year period.

You will see several TAP projects in the draft TIP. They can be easily identified by the “TAP TMA” notation under “funding source” in the TIP documents. At this point, only TAP projects in the Boise Urbanized Area (TMA) are included in the draft TIP. Because of the timing of ITD’s applications for TAP projects outside of the TMA, TAP funds allocated by ITD for projects in the Nampa Urbanized Area and rural areas of Ada and Canyon Counties will be added later, if funded.

I encourage you to take a look at the draft TIP and submit your comments on any of the projects -- TAP related or not. 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, Suite 200, Meridian, ID 83642 or fax to 208/855-2559.


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.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What is a leader?

Each year, COMPASS presents its annual Leadership in Motion awards. Nominations for the 2013 awards have just opened; visit www.compassidaho.org/comm/lim-awards.htm to submit your nomination between now and September 26, 2013.

As we’ve been preparing for the 2013 awards, something made me stop and really think about the title of the awards: Leadership in Motion. What does it mean?

First of all, what is “leadership”?

Warren Bennis, pioneer in the field of studying leadership, states that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” To me, this captures the essence of leadership. It is not simply about getting something done. Given time, tools, and training, most of us can accomplish even the most complex tasks, but that doesn’t necessarily make us leaders. Anyone can get something done; a leader inspires others to accomplish something visionary.

Second, what do we mean by “Leadership in Motion”? While “in motion” is obviously taken from the title of our long-range transportation plan (Communities in Motion), to me it also signifies that aspect of leadership that is truly “in motion” – striving to be better and not content to be stagnant or rest of the laurels of what has been done.

As you consider what people or which projects to nominate for the 2013 Leadership in Motion awards, think about what being a “leader” who is “in motion” actually means. Consider who, or what, truly fulfills the meanings of those words. Then, take a moment to submit your nominations. Learn more about award categories and submit your nomination online at www.compassidaho.org/comm/lim-awards.htm


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.