Regional Transportation: Article


Notes by Sally Hollemon

Mike Jaffe spoke to both Units in February 2010 on Regional Transportation Planning. Mr. Jaffe works for the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG) as Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Program Manager. He focuses on the Salem-Keizer-Turner area.

Cities, counties, and states develop plans and programs to address transportation issues–traffic congestion, reliable bus service, access to bike lanes, efficient freight movement. MWVCOG (which covers Marion, Polk, and Yamhill Counties and to which most of the cities belong) allows local governments to work cooperatively on projects of regional scope.

SKATS–The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS), with which Mr. Jaffe works, brings together elected representatives from Salem, Keizer, Turner, Marion and Polk Counties, the Salem Transit District, and ODOT. These elected representatives make the policy decisions.

Projects from local and statewide transportation plans are incorporated into a SKATS Regional Transportation Systems Plan. This long-range plan contains recommended projects (road and transit improvements, bicycle facilities, etc.) and activities to accommodate anticipated growth over the next 20 years. The plan is updated every four years. The SKATS Transportation Improvement Program identifies which high-priority projects from the plan will be funded or built during an upcoming four-year period. Projects are paid for with a combination of federal, state, and local funds. Mr. Jaffe said the SKATS “motto” is cooperative, continuing, coordinated regional planning.

Public involvement is important, so open houses where citizens can review proposed plans as well as speaking to groups, such as the League, allow citizens to have input.

Air quality–Our region is currently in compliance with ozone standards of federal air quality, but the EPA is setting more stringent standards on ozone, so new regulations may require additional efforts to reduce ozone emissions.

Mass transit–Under current state law, gas tax money cannot be used for mass transit; it can be used only for roads. SKATS can give transit districts money only for capital improvements, not for operations. Salem-Keizer cannot use payroll taxes for transit operations (as Portland and Eugene do), and approval by the state legislature is required before our area could use payroll taxes for transit operations. The Salem Transit District is trying to show that it is a good steward of the money it has before asking voters again for an operating levy (since the last two levy requests were defeated by voters). A long-term funding source is needed for mass transit.

Ride-Share–SKATS helps fund the local Ride-Share program. Probably this year there will be a statewide Ride-Share program. This would, for example, allow people from Salem to Ride-Share to Portland. Emergency Ride Home allows a transit rider who is called home for an emergency, such as a sick child, to take a taxi.

Safe Routes to School–This is a program to educate parents and children about safe routes to their school with crossing guards at key intersections and encouragement to walk in groups along busy streets. Some money is available to do road improvements to make the routes safer for children.

Federal Surface Transportation Funds–The SKATS MPO receives about $2.5 million each year that can be used on a variety of surface transportation projects. Projects are funded over several years and use a combination of normal federal funds, state funds, and local funds. The total cost of the following projects is many, many millions of dollars:

Highway/mobility–State Street widening; Kuebler widening; Wallace & Glen Creek intersection
Operations–Regional Traffic Signal Control Center; signal interconnects
Multi-modal and Safety–Cordon Road at McCleay; 3rd Street in Turner; Chemawa Road bike lanes, sidewalks, bridge; Auburn Road bike lanes and sidewalks; Ward Drive sidewalks and signals; Union-Glen Creek bike path; Salem Parkway/access to Kroc Center, especially from Keizer (a new study)

Federal funds can be used for bus purchases and bus shelters. There are some new funds available to improve bus shelters along busy corridors and to add electronic signs that tell how long before the next bus arrives.

Federal Stimulus Funds–SKATS received about $6 million in stimulus funds, and the majority of those funds were used for pavement restoration, although some funds were used for a signal replacement and design of a bike path in Wallace Marine Park.

For more information, check out the SKATS website at

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