Mayor Sam Adams outlined one possible funding option for the Bicycle Transportation Plan during Wednesday's city council session – sewer projects.
Adams says he's found savings in contract bids for sewer swale construction across the city. The bids came in at much lower rates than when they were estimated before the recession, according to the mayor's office.
These savings, in-turn, can fund the "Green Streets" projects, which create modified streetscapes that include areas for bioswales to collect rain water runoff. Many streets in the city are now home to these rain water catch systems, which hold wetland plants, gravel and rock to decrease the amount of water running into the sewer system. These mini-wetland areas trap oil, grease and other pollution and help them to break down naturally before entering the river system.
The streets that hold the swales are typically low-traffic because the rain water catch systems often decrease space for parking and traffic. The street can then be easily turned into low-stress bike boulevards. These types of bike ways are what bicycle advocates say will be the most appealing for riders who feel afraid to ride on bike paths placed on busy streets.
The funding kick-off is part of the previously approved 20-year plan to increase bicycle commuting in the city. The price tag, if all projects go through as planned, is an estimated $600 million. Adams' plan to use perceived savings in the sewer budget is the first concrete idea put forth by council to help fund the plan.
The council will likely vote on the funding source next week, although Wednesday's meeting kicked off a firestorm of debate about whether using storm water resources is the right way to begin to fund the massive plan.
As reported by The Oregonian's Anna Griffin, the sewer department is already facing a backlog of nearly $49 million it was hoping to fill with the savings.