WATS Hosting Input Meetings on Long Range Transportation Plan

WATS is performing an interim update to the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.  While this update largely reaffirms existing investment goals and policies, several new and exciting sections are being proposed for addition, as well as minor updates that have occurred since the Plan's 2013 adoption.  

The existing goals, examples of how to meet the goals, and performance measures to track the progress of the goals are outlined in the link.

The goals that provide the direction and vision for the Long Range Transportation Plan are below:

  1. Invest Strategically

  2. Provide access and mobility

  3. Promote a safe and secure transportation system

  4. Protect and enhance the environment

  5. Engage the public in the transportation decision making process

  6. Link transportation planning and land use

The new sections of the plan focus on Target Setting, Driverless and Connected Vehicles, Washtenaw County Equity Initiatives and Environmental Justice review.  As part of the update, WATS is hosting several public participation meetings which will provide an opportunity to review and provide comments on the Plan.  

2040 LRTP Update public participation meetings are scheduled for:

  • March 6 - from 5-7pm - Dexter District Library, 3255 Alpine St, 48130   

  • March 9 - from 5-7pm - Ann Arbor District Library, 3333 Traverwood Dr, 48105

  • March 13 - from 5-7pm - Ypsilanti District Library, 229 W. Michigan Ave, 48197

If you cannot attend the meetings feel free to contact Suzann Flowers at flowerss@miwats.org or 734-994-3127 to share your comments or ask a question.

Projects Proposed for Federal Funding Seek Approval in February

Every 3 years, the WATS Policy Committee votes on proposed projects that will use federal funds throughout the county. Funds are available for the urban area  and the rural area (the rural area is the remaining areas once you remove the following: Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti urban area, Milan urban area, Chelsea urban area). 

The funds that WATS Policy Committee directly programs are called Surface Transportation Program Funds (STP) and Surface Transportation Program Rural Funds (STL). The surface transportation program urban and rural funds are the most flexible funds available to local agencies, which include the County Road Commission, cities and villages throughout Washtenaw County.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides a robust list of what these funds can be spent on here.

Eligible Types of Work

  • Replacement, rehabilitation, preservation, protection, and anti-icing/deicing for bridges and tunnels on any public road, including construction or reconstruction necessary to accommodate other modes.
  • Capital costs for transit projects eligible for assistance under chapter 53 of title 49, including vehicles and facilities used to provide intercity passenger bus service.
  • Carpool projects, fringe and corridor parking facilities and programs, including electric and natural gas vehicle charging infrastructure, bicycle transportation and pedestrian walkways, and ADA sidewalk modification.

The process for the selection of projects is first handled by the WATS staff when they issue a call for project applications. Using a scoring process, WATS staff evaluates each project application. Staff draft a project list based upon points awarded and the funds that are available each year. WATS then holds meetings with the (hyper links here) FAC Urban and Rural Committees to discuss the draft project list and to discuss any issues that may arise.  Following approval by the FAC Urban and Rural Committees, the project list is  presented to the Technical and Policy Committees.  The Policy Committee has the final say on project lists.

View the draft project lists:

Click on the link for the project list that you are interested in urban or rural. If you have any questions about the proposed list, please contact Suzann Flowers flowerss@miwats.org or Nick Sapkiewicz sapkiewiczn@miwats.org.

The Policy Committee will take action on these project lists at their February 15 meeting.

What is Going On With the WATS Non-Motorized Plan?

WATS staff have drafted a conceptual bicycle commute route map that includes key regional connections. To create this draft map, we used existing community master and recreation plans that highlight bicycle connections and comments received from the Non-Motorized Steering Committee.

These corridors are meant to create connections across the county using existing and planned facilities.

We would like members of the public to review this map with the following in mind:

  1. Do the routes make sense?

  2. Are there additional routes we should consider, and why?

Please share your thoughts with Suzann Flowers on Facebook, Twitter, or email Suzann at flowerss@miwats.org. Your comments will be collected and shared with the WATS Non-Motor Steering Committee to assist in the route development.

We are also working on identifying secondary bicycle commuting routes, which will help make connections to the primary bicycle network.  We will review employment centers, destination centers, and dense housing areas to help us plan where those “feeder/secondary” routes should be located.

Please keep in mind that these maps provide general recommendations for where the facilities may be located. It will be up to each jurisdiction to implement these projects, and WATS will be there to assist communities in this implementation.

WATS Undertaking Long Range Plan Update

Help shape the future of transportation in Washtenaw County by participating in one of our upcoming drop in sessions.  

WATS staff are undertaking an update of the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan. The Long Range Transportation Plan sets the vision for the transportation system for the next 20 years.

Two public meetings will be held to discuss the Long Range Plan Goals and how we will measure the progress toward those goals.  The meetings will be held on the following dates:

  • Wednesday Nov. 16, 2016 1:30-3:30pm Lobby at 200 N. Main St. Ann Arbor, MI

  • Thursday Nov. 17, 2016 (4-7) near circulation desk Ypsilanti District Library 229 W. Michigan Ave Ypsilanti, MI

Stop by one of these sessions and discuss your vision for the future of our transportation system with our staff.

These November 2016 meetings will focus on a review of the six Long Range Transportation Plan Goals:

  1. Linking Land Use and Transportation

  2. Safety and Security

  3. Access and Mobility

  4. Investing Strategically

  5. Engaging the Public

  6. Protecting and Enhancing the Environment

Additionally, WATS will be discussing their WATS Data Dashboard, a reporting tool for the Long Range Transportation Plan.  These measures can be viewed by going to http://www.miwats.org/data-dashboard/.

Other opportunities to engage in these efforts will take place in February and March.

February 2017 - WATS staff will host discussions with the public to create targets to track the Long Range Transportation Plan.

March 2017 - WATS will continue their Long Range Transportation Plan discussions regarding the policies within the plan.

If you cannot attend these meetings feel free to contact Nick Sapkiewicz at sapkiewiczn@miwats.org, (734) 994-3127, or contact him on our Facebook or Twitter page.

 

Funding Washtenaw County Roads

For the past two years the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved the use of Public Act 283 to levy a .5 mill to fund roadway improvements for 2014 and 2015. After the two years, nearly 70 miles of road improvements were done and all the money raised was spent in Washtenaw County. Some of the improvements include Saline-Milan Road, Huron River Drive, Scio Church Road, North Territorial Road. 

Before and After pictures of projects that benefitted from PA 283

Before and After pictures of projects that benefitted from PA 283

Before and after pictures of projects funded by the 2016 PA 283 millage.

Before and after pictures of projects funded by the 2016 PA 283 millage.

The Board of Commissioners used this funding source following nearly two decades without a transportation funding increase at the state level. Michigan ranks last in the nation in transportation funding per capita. According to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) dashboard for 2014-2015 Washtenaw County has over 2,432 centerline miles of federal aid roadways (centerline miles is a measurement of total road segments’ length in miles, regardless of the number of lanes), Washtenaw County has

  • 179.70 miles are in good condition

  • 377.40 miles are in fair condition

  • 315.24 lane miles are in poor condition

Visit the TAMC website to look up your city, village, or another Act 51 agency at http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/mitrp/Data/PaserDashboard.aspx

Visit the TAMC website to look up your city, village, or another Act 51 agency at http://www.mcgi.state.mi.us/mitrp/Data/PaserDashboard.aspx

Taking care of the roads takes money, and there has been a lack of funding for many years to all road agencies.  In the past year, the state legislature developed a transportation package,signed by Governor Snyder, that would raise up to $1.2 billion dollars per year.  However, the new state funding package will not be fully phased in until 2021.  

The first half of the funding package will be generated from an increase in vehicle registration and fuel tax increases (approximately $600 million); the other half of the $6 million is coming from the State’s General Fund (which will be taken from other state budgets).

The Washtenaw County Road Commission has developed a plan of proposed projects to be funded if the millage passes. If approved:

  • 20% of funds $1.5 million raised would go to improving the county-wide non-motorized transportation network

  • $7.2 million would be raised annually

  • Repair 200 miles of roads

  • Cities/Villages would get an amount proportional to what was raised in their borders, the remaining funds would go to the Road Commission on behalf of the Townships

  • All funds would stay in Washtenaw County

The Road Commission has already developed a map of proposed projects that would be done in each community based upon this request. 

Map of Washtenaw County Roadway Improvements if the November millage is approved. For more details visit http://www.wcroads.org/article/washtenaw-county-road-millage

Map of Washtenaw County Roadway Improvements if the November millage is approved. For more details visit http://www.wcroads.org/article/washtenaw-county-road-millage

Ensuring that the roads in Washtenaw County stay in good repair is important to the long term operations of the transportation network. Cars and trucks are not the only users of the system, each day people walk or bicycle on our roadways in the county, as well as the buses of numerous transit agencies, such as The Ride, Western Washtenaw Area Value Express, and People’s Express. Keeping the roads in good working order is good for the residents and visitors to our county.  As a reminder, the funding that comes from the federal government that WATS programs can only be spent on roads designated as eligible for federal aid . There are many local roads that these funds cannot be spent on.

 

Strava Heatmap Shows Rides and Runs Around Washtenaw County

Strava is an app that tracks your workouts. What is cool is what Strava has done with their data. They have created heatmaps showing the routes that bicyclists and runners have done.

When you click on the bicycling routes on the map (http://bit.ly/2d5JE9s) it is amazing to see the routes that people are taking throughout Washtenaw County. You can also click on the Activity View to see the running paths that people are using.

One of the biggest routes used is the Border to Border Trail. This is a great asset in our county and continues to be improved and added onto. There are plans to make the connection between Ann Arbor and Dexter. Visit the http://bit.ly/1QrBjnR to see what is being planned next. Other significant roadways include: Dexter Chelsea Road, Whitmore Lake Road, and Platt Road. 

As we gear up for the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan project this type of data can be quite helpful as we look to develop maps that highlight primary and secondary bicycling commuting routes.

If you are interested in participating in the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan Project please visit the project website http://www.miwats.org/pedbike or contact Suzann Flowers at flowerss@miwats.org

 

 

Washtenaw County FY 2017 CMAQ Awards Announced

The CMAQ program (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) provides funding for projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality for areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, carbon monoxide or particulate matter (nonattainment areas) and for former nonattainment areas that are now in compliance (maintenance areas).  

WATS prioritizes CMAQ applications within Washtenaw County.  MDOT reviews CMAQ project for program eligibility and SEMCOG awards funding for projects in the regions.  SEMCOG has announced CMAQ awards in Washtenaw County for 2017 include funding for:

Construction of a roundabout at the Nixon/Green/Dhu Varren intersection, including realignment of Dhu Varren Road and associated utilities.  The roundabout design will include pedestrian facilities, on-street bike lanes with lane termini ramps, and will be designed to access transit - $782,850 CMAQ funding - $1,300,000 total cost

(looking north from Nixon and Green)

(looking north from Nixon and Green)

 

Purchase of three large hybrid buses for TheRide transit service.  The buses will replace older buses past their useful service life - $1,565,700 CMAQ funding - $1,950,000 total cost

(The Ride hybrid bus on 4th Avenue near Blake Transit Center)

(The Ride hybrid bus on 4th Avenue near Blake Transit Center)

Congratulations to the City of Ann Arbor and The Ride on their awards.  We look forward to seeing construction on the roundabout and delivery of the buses!

Counting Pedestrian and Bicyclists

WATS has partnered with Pittsfield Charter Township and the City of Dexter to install permanent non-motorized counters to track pedestrian and bicycle usage.

The Pittsfield Charter Township counter was installed on the Lohr-Textile Greenway in mid-July and has been collecting data for a month.  Early data indicate higher usage on the weekends, which may be the result of weekend recreational trips.

On average there are 243 passes each day on this facility.  WATS defines this as the the number of times a pedestrian or bicyclist passes the counter.

WATS has manually tracked non-motorized users at select locations for several years,   however, there has not been a consistent county-wide counting program.  WATS will be developing a more comprehensive non-motorized counting program in coordination with the development of the Washtenaw County Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, scheduled to begin this year.

The counting program will use a variety of counting methods, such as in person counts and mobile counts. WATS is purchasing two mobile counters and hopes to deploy these counters in the fall of 2016. Counting non-motorized users will provide planners with new data on  where and when people are walking and riding. The data will also be helpful in determining overall  use on select paths, including those for which WATS has helped to fund .  Automobile counts have been done for decades, whereas non-motorized counts have just come on the scene. Communities across the country are finding value in collecting this data to highlight the use that they receive throughout the year.  

Below is an example of the type of data the City of Orlando collects and reports.  WATS is looking around the country for non-motorized counting best practices.   We look forward to sharing the results!

New SEMCOG Blog Series: Michigan Local Government Revenue and Expenditures

SEMCOG has begun publishing a series of blogs that look at how well Michigan’s local governments compare to the rest of the nation from various financial perspectives. The U.S. Census compiles data yearly from states and local governments regarding how they fund their operations and how the money is spent. Once every five years, the census does a more detailed report that looks at the same issues from a more detailed perspective, which is broken down by type of local government.

 

The first blog, posted last Wednesday, looked at the changes in revenues received by Michigan’s cities and villages as compared to municipalities in the rest of the nation. The results are not pretty. Whether measured based on overall revenues, revenues derived from taxes and fees, or even by how much the state contributes to city operations, our state’s cities took a beating between 2002 and 2012. Each Wednesday, a different form of local government will be featured, including counties, townships and school districts.

After revenues are reviewed, the blogs will switch over to examining how much Michigan spends on various services, with a focus on those that are normally provided at the local level. This material looks at historical spending from 1992 to 2012. How much did Michigan spend on police protection on a per capita basis in 1992 and how did that compare to other states? What about general administrative costs in 2007 or parks and recreation spending in 2012? Each week a different category of spending will be reviewed with per capita expenditures and national rankings being tracked over a two decade period of time. Is it a good thing if we spend more than anyone else on certain services or is it bad if we spend less than everyone else? That can be a very interesting question. Think of this as benchmarking our progress over 20 years.

Follow the blogs as they are posted each Wednesday over the coming weeks. Sign up here and they will be delivered to your mailbox!

Thank you to SEMCOG for creating this data rich series to highlight the funding challenges that communities and departments face.