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Portland's 2030 bicycle plan coasts to approval

The Oregonian: Portland's 2030 bicycle plan coasts to approval

By Joseph Rose, The Oregonian
February 11, 2010, 6:18PM

The Portland City Council unanimously approved the nation's most ambitious bike-projects initiative Thursday, with Mayor Sam Adams promising to submit a $20 million "kickstart" funding plan within 30 days.

The goal of the $600 million 2030 Portland Bicycle Plan is that 25 percent of trips in the city be by bike in 20 years.

At the heart of the proposal is nearly 700 miles of new bikeways that would make up a "safer and more comfortable" two-wheeled urban network for new cyclists.

"It's an ambitious plan, as it should be," said Commissioner Dan Saltzman. "We're an ambitious city. If we waited around to have the funding, we wouldn't have the streetcar."

Saltzman made his comments after backing away from his proposed amendment to partially fund the plan with water and sewer utility fees.

Adams thanked Saltzman for suggesting the funding source, but said it was too speculative for "a national and international class" bike strategy.

"I think this plan deserves better," Adams said.

At the same time, one of the mayor's staff members said officials were still trying to "hammer out details" of where Adams would get $20 million in one-time funding to start the plan rolling.

During the meeting, Adams said one source would be contract savings from the Bureau of Environmental Services' Green Streets program, which incorporates new stormwater-management techniques into road projects.

Catherine Ciarlo, the mayor's transportation adviser, said the city could "knit together" some new bike projects with Green Streets construction.

Adams also mentioned that the Big Pipe sewer project is winding down and there might be "administrative savings."

Before the vote, New York City resident Daniel Garwood testified that he was on vacation in Portland and decided to attend the meeting to thank commissioners for making the city easy for cyclists to get around.

"I'm jealous," he said.

Adams invited Garwood to move to Portland, which prompted Commissioner Randy Leonard to joke that the city already has its quota of New York transplants for 2010.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said biking and walking safely are "basic needs."

More than 6 percent of the city's commuters already bike daily, according to a recent Census Bureau survey. Community surveys by the city auditor's office have found that about 18 percent bicycle to work at least occasionally.

Critics say the city can't afford to spend $600 million on bike infrastructure. Adams counters that the city can't afford not to invest in the ambitious plan, saying it would be virtually impossible to meet the city's livability and environmental goals without it.

During last week's three-hour public hearing, Adams noted that the city can't ask for federal and state money unless it has a plan in place -- a fact with any transportation project.

Saltzman said he still wants his utility fees proposal to be part of the mix as a funding committee convenes to explore steady revenue streams for myriad new bike projects.

-- Joseph Rose