Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
May 15, 2002
Andrew C. Cotugno
Metro Planning Director
Mr. Chairman I want to thank you and the Committee for holding this series of hearings on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and inviting me to testify. I am Andy Cotugno, Planning Director for Metro, the regional government covering the 24 cities and three counties of the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. Metro is the only directly elected regional government in the U.S. Metro has a home-rule charter approved by the voters, establishing a Metro “that undertakes, as its most important service, planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations.” We also serve as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) under the federal transportation planning statutes. Metro is an active member in our national organization located here in Washington, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO). I am pleased to be joined today by my colleague, Ron Kirby from the MPO for the Washington, D.C. region.
The Portland region is often cited as the Smart Growth capital of the world. Whether that is true or not, Metro’s programs have been closely scrutinized throughout their 23 year life. It is from that unique base of experience, transportation integrated with Smart Growth, that I offer these recommendations.
This morning, I would like to speak to you first on the principles of making the Smart Growth connection to transportation and then relate that to recommendations for how the next transportation authorization bill could recognize these principles. The linkage between Smart Growth and Transportation is about understanding how developing land use patterns impact the effectiveness of the transportation system and, in turn, how a new transportation project affects those development patterns. The key to the successful integration is to recognize what land use goals are being pursued and how a planned transportation project will either lead the region closer to the goals or conflict or undermine the goals.
Metro and the Portland region have implemented a number of integrated land use and transportation strategies through something we call the Region 2040 Growth Concept:
· We have had an urban growth boundary in place for 20+ years, which has effectively stopped the sprawling development pattern leapfrogging out onto farmland. As a result, all aspects of urban infrastructure, including roads, transit, sewer, water, schools, police stations, libraries and parks are focused within a compact urbanizing area, reducing the need for expensive extensions.
· We have used land use plans and zoning to reinforce a higher density development pattern in locations that can be well served by light rail and bus transit, producing six consecutive years of transit ridership increases.
· We have protected industrial areas and areas intended for intermodal freight terminals from conversion to big box retail, preserving this land and highway capacity for more important economic purposes. In this manner, key highway expansion projects are retained for their function to move freight rather than being overloaded with shoppers.
· We have adopted parking limitations, not just parking minimums to ensure new development does not overbuild parking.
· We have adopted a requirement for greater local street connectivity to ensure a system of cul-de-sacs does not simply shift local traffic onto the regional system.
· We have restricted development near streams and acquired open space to ensure a balance between growth and access to nature.
· We have adopted revised street design guidelines to ensure highways intended for through traffic are built to emphasize moving cars and trucks while streets in downtowns and neighborhoods support a strong pedestrian environment and access to transit.
· We have taken advantage of the flexibility provided by ISTEA and TEA-21 to target funds to a broad mix of highways, light rail, arterials, buses, bike trails, sidewalks, transportation demand management programs and transit-oriented development projects.
· We have put to good use funding made available through the New Starts Program to build a successful light rail system that helps to focus growth and has ridership 7 years ahead of forecast.
· We have leveraged the planning framework provided by the federal requirement for a metropolitan planning organization into a broad-based intergovernmental program to coordinate regional land use and environmental protection plans.
In summary, we have used transportation investments to influence desired land use plans and we have used land use controls to produce a more effective transportation system. The premise of the Metro 2040 Growth Concept is that integrating our land use and transportation plans produces both better communities and better mobility.
With this Smart Growth framework, I would like to focus on three transportation programs that can serve as the framework for the Smart Growth direction in the next transportation bill:
1. Title 49, Section 5309 - Major Capital Investment Grants for New Fixed Guideway Systems (Which I will refer to as the New Starts Program);
2. Title 23, Section 1118 - National Corridor Planning and Development Program (which I will refer to as the National Trade Corridor Program); and
3. Section 1221 - Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program (which I will refer to as the TCSP Program).
All of these programs could follow the model established by the New Starts program. The New Starts Program has been a sustained program for over 25 years providing discretionary grants to construct light rail projects. Since these are expensive projects, local areas have a significant incentive to pursue 50 - 80 % federal funds. As a result, competition is high and many projects from all over the country are waiting in line. To manage the demand:
· Congress has set clear criteria to distinguish the most meritorious projects;
· The legislation provides for seed money to develop a project with the expectation that the best projects will be in line for construction funding;
· The Federal Transit Administration requires local areas to go through a rigorous process to prove the merits of their projects;
· New Start regions collaborate on what constitutes a good project and hold each other to a high standard;
· The Federal Transit Administration makes a recommendation of projects that are “Highly Recommended,” “Recommended” or “Not Recommended” to Congress;
· With the approval of the Congressional authorizing and appropriating committees, a multi-year funding contract is executed for the best projects subject to annual appropriations to fulfill this commitment.
This is a very successful program. It produces good projects that stand up to scrutiny. It is administered in a manner that results in selection of a limited number of good projects from a large competitive field. The funding is significant enough to hold local areas and the projects they seek to a high standard. The projects make a significant difference when they are built.
For the Portland region, the New Starts program has provided the means to build an essential part of the region’s transportation infrastructure and, in the process, shape the growth of the region to be supportive of Smart Growth goals. It has had a profound impact on the ability of the region to reign in sprawl and hold tight it’s Urban Growth Boundary, thereby eliminating the need to build public infrastructure in an ever-expanding urban area. It has helped produce a terrific downtown Portland and is now shaping the future of downtown Gresham, downtown Beaverton and downtown Hillsboro, as well as new communities sprouting up around light rail stations. And, because the federal New Start funds make a significant contribution, it has been possible to leverage state and local funds into the projects that would not have been spent on the transportation system. In addition, decisions have been made to target various federal formula funds into the New Start projects (through STP, CMAQ and FTA Section 5307).
If the New Starts Program is the transit component of a Smart Growth strategy, what is the equivalent for the Federal Highway Administration? You would think the complementary program would be the NHS system. It is a significant funding category available to all the states. It is intended for modernization and expansion of the most important part of the nation’s highway system. However, the NHS system is so large and the eligible uses of these funds across this system are so varied, their use is not focused. In the case of Oregon, these funds are used primarily to rehabilitate the system that already exists. That’s a prudent asset management decision to make but doesn’t deal with the needs to expand and modernize that system in targeted areas of national economic importance.
The National Trade Corridor Program could follow the New Starts model and be the strategic federal investment in the National Highway System. Through the National Trade Corridor Program, there can be a Smart Growth connection to building a strong economic base, not just livable, walkable neighborhoods. To do this, the “Borders” and “Corridor” funding categories should be separated because they are distinctly different. With that, the “Corridors” component should be revised to mirror the New Starts program but with a Freight and Trade emphasis, as follows:
· It should be authorized at a funding level sufficient to allow Congress and the FHWA to make multi-year funding commitments to significant construction projects. Like New Starts, that means $1+ billion per year, not the current $140 million per year (split with the Section 1119 - Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program), allowing commitments to projects of $300-500 million.
· It can provide the funding for the seed money to develop projects, leading to a later request to fund construction (at the present, the National Corridors Program can only fund these studies or very small scale construction projects);
· Congress should set a high standard on how the funds are spent to ensure high quality projects are funded to produce the greatest impact on global economic competitiveness rather than spreading the funds across a list of projects of unknown merit.
· The Federal Highway Administration should ensure localities go through a rigorous process to establish the basis for their recommendation to Congress to “Highly Recommend,” “Recommend” or “Not Recommend” projects for a multi-year funding contract.
· With the approval of the Congressional authorizing and appropriating committees, a multi-year funding contract can be executed, subject to annual appropriations.
· Through this process and the high degree of national competition, state and local governments should be encouraged to leverage their NHS, Interstate-4R and STP funds, not to mention state and local funds into the project.
This approach would provide the means for implementing significant highway projects needed to move freight and support the nation’s economy.
Let’s look at a Portland case study as an example. Interstate 5 is a designated National Trade Corridor from Canada to Mexico through Washington, Oregon and California. The segment connecting Oregon and Washington in the Portland/Vancouver region is a significant bottleneck and the most congested corridor in the region. The I-5 bridges across the Columbia River are an antiquated pair of draw bridges (three lanes each northbound and southbound), the first one built in 1917, well before the Interstate system was imagined, and the second in 1958. These old bridges represent the critical bottleneck where access to the Ports of Portland and Vancouver provide U.S. connections to the Pacific Rim (the only west coast ports with a positive balance of international trade). This is the same corridor that accesses the intermodal terminals for the two transcontinental railroads (BN/SF and UP/SP). This is the same corridor that accesses the Portland International Airport to ship high value products such as the source of Intel’s Pentium 4 chip. And, this is the same corridor where 80% of the region’s truck terminals are located.
Finally, I-5 is located in a fragile social and environmental setting making construction of any improvements difficult. I-5 was built by displacing a 3-4 block wide swath through the low income/minority area of the region making further widening difficult. In addition, construction of any new bridge across the Columbia River will be regulated by the Endangered Species Act due to listing of salmon and steelhead as endangered. And to top it off, the 1917 bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the tremendous benefit of a $2 million “Borders and Corridors” grant from FHWA (thank you), we have now completed an extensive community-based process to develop a solution to the “bottleneck” and have succeeded in coming up with a fragile multi-modal consensus on how to proceed, including:
· Upgrading the existing bridge from 6 lanes to 10 lanes across the Columbia River at a cost of $1.2 billion +;
· Extension of the two existing light rail lines in Portland north to connect as a loop in Vancouver at a cost of $1.2 billion +;
· Implementation of aggressive measures to reduce demand, increase transit service and encourage the use of alternatives to auto commuting; and most revolutionary;
· An agreement to control land uses to avoid inducing more sprawl in response to a bigger freeway to simply result in a bigger traffic jam in the future.
So, you say, what is the problem. TEA-21 provides significant help through the NHS, Interstate-4R and Bridge programs that the States of Oregon and Washington can choose to commit to this corridor. Well, Oregon has prioritized these funds to take care of over 7,500 miles of existing highways statewide and expansion comes after taking care of the existing system. Washington State priorities are focused on its major population center of Seattle. This corridor is currently unfunded. But, because of it’s critical trade characteristics it would be a good candidate for a revised “National Corridors Program” in the manner described.
Ironically, the LRT components of the plan have a better chance of being implemented through the New Starts program than the I-5 freeway components. The economic implications spread far beyond this corridor because freight that is shipped through the marine, rail, truck and air cargo terminals moves to and from points throughout the Pacific Northwest, the entire U.S. and the Pacific Rim.
C. FHWA TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNITY AND SYSTEM PRESERVATION PILOT PROGRAM
Let’s move to the third component: the Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program. If the New Starts Program is intended to build the backbone to move people in a Smart Growth context and the National Trade Corridor Program is the means to build significant highways for moving commerce, TCSP is the model for building strong communities around the transportation system. Whether it’s Transit-Oriented Development around Light Rail or an Interchange Management Plan to avoid incompatible development from overloading a new interchange, the TCSP Program was designed to make the land use connection to the transportation system.
The program was conceived with all good intentions. It was founded on the principles of Smart Growth, based on the premise of building transportation projects that support good local and regional growth decisions. It was intended to support such concepts as urban growth boundaries, transit-oriented development, interchange land use management plans and green corridors separating metropolitan areas.
In the first year of TEA-21, FHWA did an admirable job of setting guidance for the program and selecting competitive projects (in fact, the Portland region is now finishing a TCSP grant to do the master planning for a major expansion of the region’s urban growth boundary). However, since then, Congress has earmarked the funds to a potpourri of projects. In the most recent appropriations bill the program originally authorized at $25 million was earmarked with $250 million of projects. This program could benefit from the rigor of the New Starts model. And it could be the third pillar of the national program, not to build the major elements of the system, like light rail and freeways, but to build strong communities taking advantage of and supporting the major elements of the transportation system:
· The Federal Highway Administration, in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration should continue to develop guidance for projects to be funded through the TCSP Program. The initial effort to define the principles for selecting the projects was a good start and should continue to ensure funding is targeted to best support good land use decisions rather than ignore or undermine land use decisions.
· The Federal Highway Administration should publish information to highlight the characteristics of successful projects and disseminate these “Best Practices.”
· Congress should increase the authorized level of the program to $250 million, comparable to the FY 2003 appropriations.
· Congress should tighten up statutory language to ensure grants cannot be awarded unless they demonstrate a supportive land use benefit.
· Congress should require an evaluation of the merits of the proposed projects by the Federal Highway Administration and approve funding based upon a recommendation of “Highly Recommended,” “Recommended” or “Not Recommended.” This should be designed to ensure good projects are recommended for funding, although in a more streamlined manner that the large multi-year contracts under the New Starts and National Trade Corridor Programs.
The theme for all three of these programs is the same. The federal government ensures localities go through a rigorous process, thereby justifying a substantial funding commitment to a project that really makes a difference. With this focused undertaking, other funding sources and programs also are leveraged.
In sum, I encourage you to consider what I call the three pillars of the Smart Growth connection to the next transportation bill: 1) New Starts to focus housing and jobs, 2) National Trade Corridors for global economic competitiveness and 3) TCSP to build strong communities around transportation.
Let me turn now to a few other issues:
1. Title 23, Section 104(f) - Metropolitan Planning Funds/Title 49, Section 5303 - Transit Planning Funds: With the 2000 Census, there will be more MPOs created, potentially reducing the level of planning funds to existing MPOs.
To avoid this reduction, Federal Highway Planning funds should be increased from a 1% take-down on categorical funds to a 2% take-down. FTA Transit Planning funds should be increased from their FFY 2003 authorized level of $58.6 million consistent with the increase in MPO population.
2. Title 23, Section 133(d)(3) - Surface Transportation Program funds to Transportation Management Areas: A portion of STP funds is suballocated to MPOs designated Transportation Management Areas in excess of 200,000 population. Again, with the 2000 Census, there will be more TMAs formed and an increase in population in the existing TMAs. To recognize this, the formula for splitting STP funds between these TMAs and the balance of the state should be revised accordingly.
3. Clean Water Act - There has long been a connection between the Clean Air Act and transportation legislation. Planning and funding decisions between the two federal acts are well integrated because vehicle emissions are a major contributor to air pollution problems.
In the same manner, the road, street and highway system is a major contributor of polluted stormwater runoff. As such, there could be a tighter connection to the Clean Water Act to ensure transportation projects can employ more environmentally friendly stormwater handling methods.
4. Endangered Species Act - State and local governments in the Northwest are working closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service to recover the salmon and steelhead listed as endangered. Past transportation projects have contributed to this listing by blocking access to important upstream habitat. There should be clear eligibility to use federal transportation funds to retrofit previously installed culverts to restore access to this habitat.
Andrew C. Cotugno
Metro Planning Director
600 NE Grand Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97232