Josephine County Public Works Director Rob Brandes delivered a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners Wednesday, Nov. 16 at Anne G. Basker Auditorium. This was the first of two scheduled hearings on adoption of a new Transportation System Plan, which would supersede the TSP adopted in 2004.
“This is by and large a planning document,” noted Brandes, “although it does serve as kind of a guiding document for our department as well. The general intent is to not only establish what our current baseline conditions are, but where we are hopefully going to be in 20 years and it gives us some aspirational goals to focus on.”
Brandes pointed out that the TSP received funding through an Oregon Department of Transportation grant. The engineering consultant firm Kittelson & Associates, Inc. based in Portland, Ore. developed the TSP in coordination with Josephine County.
The TSP consists of 10 chapters: Introduction; Goals and Objectives; Street Plan; Freight Plan; Public Transit Plan; Transportation System Management / Transportation Demand Management Plan; Air Transportation Plan; Non-Motorized Transportation Plan; Rail Plan; and Plan Implementation Strategy.
The following is stated in Chapter 1: Introduction: “The Josephine County Rural Transportation System Plan (TSP) establishes the County’s goals, policies, and action strategies for developing the transportation system outside of the Grants Pass and Cave Junction urban areas. The TSP is intended to serve as a blueprint or master plan to guide transportation decisions to address both short- and long-term needs. The TSP discusses on-going roadway maintenance needs, and identifies improvements to enhance roadway safety, non-motorized travel (bicycles and pedestrians), and public transit service, and to accommodate future land development activity, particularly in the Middle Rogue Metropolitan Planning Organization (MRMPO) area as well as other urban unincorporated areas throughout the County.”
Brandes explained that one of the early steps of putting the TSP together was sitting down with Kittelson personnel and taking stock of the county’s road inventory.
The public works director remarked, “That is literally them and us sitting down to say, ‘Alright, what’s the current road package that you guys have? What roads have you added? What roads have you lost?’”
Once inventory was assessed, Brandes went on, the consultants would evaluate how county roads would fare over the next 20 years with no public works intervention and what ordinances or code changes could improve them.
However, Brandes noted that the consultants have no capability to enact these changes; they are merely “suggestions.”
“They may suggest, ‘Hey, bike lanes on all roads with this classification would be great,’ and we would say, ‘Well, to do that on North Applegate Rd would cost $20 million so I don’t see us getting there,’” said Brandes.
Multiple reasons were given during the presentation as to why having a Transportation System Plan is in the county’s best interest, besides the legal requirement by the state.
These were stated as: Determine design and operating standards and provide guidance for implementing planned improvements; Identify gaps, deficiencies, and needs for walking, biking, taking transit, driving, and other travel modes; and Identify funding opportunities.
The TSP classifies public works projects that could be completed over the next 20 years into three tiers, sorted by how necessary they are to the well-being of the community.
Brandes noted that Tier 1, or “financially constrained” projects, are “gotta dos”, meaning they have to be done for the safety of the community. These projects include activities in the vein of chipsealing, stitching, vegetation removal and line restriping. “One way or another, we’re gonna get ‘em done,” pledged Brandes.
With a budget of roughly $200 million over the next 20 years, the TSP calculates Tier 1 projects will cost over $115 million, leaving about $85 million for the non-critical projects that characterize Tier 2 and Tier 3 (See Chart)
Tier 2, the first of two “financially unconstrained” project categories, are projects that would address gaps or deficiencies in the current road system. This might include nonessential road maintenance, bike lane improvements and public transit upgrades.
The TSP calculates that Josephine County Public Works has almost $280 million dollars worth of Tier 2 projects that could be completed over the next two decades. The $85 million left over from Tier 1 expenditures would get them close to a third of the way there, and grants could increase the amount of Tier 2 projects that can come to fruition by 2042.
Finally, Tier 3 projects were described by Brandes as “pie in the sky” matters, such that Brandes’ previous examples of putting bike lanes on long rural roads would fall under.
“Sounds great, but short of unicorns falling out of the sky, it’s not going to happen,” Brandes said, alluding to the fact that the budget simply would not allow for Tier 3 project implementation.
The commissioners voted to advance the Transportation System Plan ordinance to a second reading, scheduled for Nov. 30.