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Traffic board eyes tapping state transportation funds

Of the Keizertimes

In the last session of the Oregon Legislature, the Senate and House of Representatives passed a massive transportation plan known as Keep Oregon Moving (HB 2017). Revenues generated from a fuel tax and increases to annual registration fees are expected to generate more than $5.3 billion over the next decade and members of the Keizer Traffic Safety, Bikeways and Pedestrian (TBP) Committee want to be ready with a project when the money becomes available.

“I would like to identify a project that is shovel-ready and submit it to see if we qualify for the money,” said Wayne Frey, chair of the committee.

While the money isn’t expected to become available until late this year or 2019, Frey has been a regular advocate for coming up with a project that could meet grant requirements once they are released to the public. The rule-making committee for the funding is currently meeting to establish the guidelines for the types of projects to be considered.

The timing was fortuitous as Mike Jaffe, director of transportation for the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, was on-hand to offer his department as a resource for the committee and share some of his knowledge about past grant processes.

“They are already determining the criteria and the important factors for how applications will be judged,” said Jaffe. “The sooner you jump on this the better. We will have to see what their timeline is.”

One potential snag, Jaffe said, is that the committee wants proposals to already be part of a comprehensive transportation system plan or a Safe Routes to Schools plan. While Keizer has projects that might fit into both categories, none have yet made it through the processes to be included in the transportation plan and there is no Safe Routes to School program up-and-running in the area. That means areas like Portland and Eugene have a leg up.

“My concern is that lots of other areas have the Safe Routes to School action plans. They are far ahead of our area as far as what they need,” Jaffe said.

The potential project that received the most discussion by the committee was improving Delight Street North.

“One of the reasons we are pushing it is because everyone has come together around it. Everyone is saying, ‘yeah,’” said Hersch Sangster, a member of the committee.

Last year, members of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association and Cummings Elementary School Principal Martina Mangan requested action on the issue at a meeting of the TBP committee and, later, at a meeting of the Keizer Budget Advisory Committee. Cummings’ main entrance on Delight. Cummings Elementary students, are often seen walking in the street alongside moving vehicles prior to the start of school and after release. Increased traffic resulting from other parents dropping off and picking up students makes for hazardous conditions all around.

The Salem-Keizer School District is planning to address the immediate area around Cummings with a bond measure that will need voter approval in May 2018, but the issues are not limited to Cummings.

“It’s McNary High School, too,” said Sangster. “Students use Delight to walk to McNary. The school district is talking about the east side of Cummings (property) and if you go further down, there are no sidewalks. Improvements are needed all the way through, not just at Cummings, and Delight also serves several residential areas.”

Another hurdle will be coming up with matching funds from city coffers. While specifics are still in the works a 40 to 60 percent match would not be out of the question.

“If it is a 40 percent match, then it’s going to have to be something that the council makes a high priority,” said Pat Fisher, a committee member.

Other potential projects mentioned were improvements to River Road North, improvements to Newberg Drive North, and a connection between Northview Park and Claggett Creek Park.

The committee is expected to continue discussion at its next meeting Thursday, Feb. 8.