By BRADEN LAMMERS
Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency held the last of 24 workshops that sought input on transportation projects that will be part of a plan presented in 2014.
The Metropolitan Transportation Plan is the region’s long range transportation plan for KIDPA’s five county region, which includes Clark and Floyd counties. Once the data is collected the information will be compiled and used to create a set of solutions, according to KIPDA.
KIDPA Transportation Planner David Burton said the agency is trying a new approach in getting more detailed information from the community. A series of maps have been available at the public meetings and planners are asking the public to point out, in detail, where and what issues exist.
“That’s how we can get to defining what the solutions are if you do need more transit then this will give us the backing to make that happen,” Burton said. “If you just tell us we need transit, then there’s not much we can do with that except listen to you.”
He added that KIDPA is taking the comments received and geocoding them on the region’s planning maps to get an idea of where there is the greatest need.
KIPDA Public Outreach Specialist Josh Suiter said throughout the public hearings, “we’ve had over 100 comments submitted and over 400 surveys submitted.”
He said from 137 attendees at the workshops, comments ranged from people wanting sidewalks in their neighborhoods, to cyclists that want more bike lanes to people who are upset about ongoing construction projects.
“We’re still in the early phase of this thing, when we finish...our staff is going to look at the comments and start to get some general themes,” Suiter said. “We have to kind of look what kind of data we have and compare it to what we know we have coming down the road.”
But it won’t be the last chance for the public to have their say on local transportation projects.
Suiter said the next phase of updating the transportation plans is for transportation planners to meet with focus groups to gather their input.
Burton said the transportation planning organization is working through three phases in this stage of planning to create the 2014 transportation plan: Identifying the issues, trying to identify solutions to the issues and try to identify alternatives based on anticipated transportation funding.
“We’re going to have to try to do more with less,” he said.
Burton explained that uncertainty around the passage of a new transportation funding bill has left some transportation projects up in the air. He added that the expectation is that when a funding plan is approved by the federal government it will be a reduction of the funds that has been designated in the past.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to fund federal highway transportation programs. The program was expected to be passed by the Senate later on Friday, and the current extension of the bill was set to expire Saturday.
The bill consolidates transportation programs and reduces the number of programs by two-thirds. It also revamps rules on environmental studies of the potential impact of highway projects, with an aim toward cutting in half the time it takes to complete construction projects, according to the AP. And the measure contains an array of safety initiatives, including requirements that would make it more likely passengers would survive a tour bus crash.
The bill would spend more than $100 million on federal highway programs over two years, but puts off the politically tricky decision on how to pay for them after that, according to the AP report. The federal 18.4 cent-a-gallon gasoline and 24.4 cent-a-gallon diesel taxes are no longer enough to pay for current spending on highway and transit programs. And two commissions and an array of private sector experts have said the U.S. should be spending about twice as much or more on its transportation infrastructure as it does now. So far, Congress and the White House have refused to discuss raising fuel taxes or an alternative long-term source of money, according to the AP.