Capital Improvements

Capital Improvements Program (2008)

Notes by Sally Hollemon

Three people explained the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in the Salem area at the November 2008 all-member meeting before a small attendance in Loucks Lecture Hall.

Sandra Montoya, City of Salem Treasury Manager, said the Capital Improvement Program is a 5-year planning document that includes items that will last more than five years, cost more than $50,000, and require lengthy development. Examples are infrastructure (buildings, utility lines, streets, parks) and acquisitions (land, play structures, fire truck, computer system).

Just as a family must plan and budget for major purchases, a city must plan for major repairs (such as roofs) and for expansion of infrastructure as the population increases (such as larger-diameter sewer pipes and more parkland).

The CIP planning document is developed from (1) Infrastructure Master Plans (on water, storm water, wastewater, parks, transportation, airport, fire, etc.), (2) Assessments of the condition of infrastructure and equipment, and (3) Community desires, including city council’s goals/priorities, special needs (such as softball, environmental, etc.), Neighborhood Associations’ goals, and citizen requests.

Each master plan goes through a lengthy evaluation process that includes public input as well as identification of funding sources. City officials prioritize projects according to their urgency and the availability of funding. Most grants from the state and federal governments are for specific types of projects and cannot be used for other types of projects. For example, funding for water projects cannot be used for street repairs.

There is always a backlog of CIP projects for which no funding is available, and the current recession will exacerbate that problem. Priorities may have to change. For example, roofs must be replaced before they deteriorate so much that water damage to the building and its contents occurs, requiring even more expensive repairs.

After public comment, the city council must approve each master plan and the Capital Improvement Program.

Ms. Montoya said that, since planning for projects is done years in advance, to have the most effect, citizens should get involved early in the process. As she put it:  Come early, come often, speak loudly.

Cliff Serres, Assistant City Engineer with the City of Salem Public Works Department, supervises most of Salem’s CIP projects. He handed out a sheet that listed the projects to be funded by the Streets and Bridge General Obligation Bonds approved by voters in November 2008. Projects fit into three general categories: · Congestion relief · Rebuilding pavements and bridges · Safety improvements Construction will occur over eight years beginning in summer 2009.

In addition to population growth and normal wear and tear, CIPs are needed when environmental, health, and safety regulations are updated by state and federal governments. Sometimes the new requirements come with money and sometimes not.

The City of Salem manages water utilities for Salem, Keizer and Turner. Transportation is handled through regional cooperation. CIPs must be approved by all the jurisdictions involved. Computers now keep CIP information current and facilitate coordination with all the entities involved.

Funding availability determines how many projects can be carried out. Sources of funds are bonds, systems development charges (SDCs), and grants from state or federal government. Each funding source has requirements attached. For example, the federal government will pay for a bus, but the driver must be paid with local funds.

Richard Schmid, Council of Governments (COG), said that the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) is required to identify areas and type of congestion. SKATS uses traffic counts and travel-time studies. The cameras and detectors that tell traffic signals when there are vehicles waiting for the signal to turn green can also count those vehicles. The actual time it takes for a car to travel the major corridors in the Salem area at different times of day is measured using a global positioning system (GPS). Information collected is used to identify trends and help calibrate the computerized traffic lights in the area.

Transit: Transit ridership was up over 3% in June 2008 compared to the previous June. This increase occurred as gas prices were rising and despite a recent increase in fares and cuts in services in 2006. However, Saturday service will be cut in early 2009 due to defeat of the transit levy at the November 2008 election.

Eliminating Saturday bus service will allow the transit district to also cut out Saturday WHEELS service, which costs three times as much as buses to operate. Mr. Schmid commented that the federal government could help local transit by changing some of its rules.

However, the biggest obstacle facing the transit district is the lack of stable funding. Until the funding issue is resolved, the district will find it difficult to add transit services that will help promote and expand transit use in the Salem-Keizer area.

Bridge: The Highway 22 bridges over the Willamette River in Salem are at capacity during peak hours. To determine the most appropriate way to add river crossing capacity and reduce related congestion while minimizing adverse social and environmental impacts, a federally required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is under way.

The next major public comment opportunity will come in the fall of 2009 when the Draft EIS is released. The draft will be accompanied by open houses and a public hearing. One of the federal requirements is that, as part of the EIS process, a realistic and implementable funding mechanism be identified for funding the selected river-crossing alternative.

Survey: In spring of 2009 a Household Travel Behavior Survey will be done to gather data on trip purpose, length, destination, mode of travel, and whether the trip was combined with other trips. This information will be used to update transportation models for the area to anticipate future demand on the transportation network and identify where improvements will be needed.

However, since the gas tax has remained the same for many years while costs have increased, even with the additional state and local funds expected to be available in the next twenty years, the area’s traffic system is forecast to have significantly more roadways operating at “nearing capacity” or “above capacity” during peak hours–in other words, more traffic congestion.

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