Regional Flexible Funds
From Portland Afoot
Regional Flexible Funds, sometimes known as RFF, Regional Flexible Fund Allocation, RFFA, is a program that uses federal grants to pay for transportation projects including bike trails, transit projects and walking paths.
As of June 2010, the program awards new grants on a two-year cycle. In the 2010-2013 funding cycle, the program gave out $21,649,741 for "local" projects and $46,150,000 for "regional" projects.
"Anyone interested in more bike lanes, sidewalks and trails should care about this," Coalition for a Livable Future advocate Mara Gross said in June 2010. "There are very few pots of funding for these kind of projects, and this is one of them."
 Projects funded
In the 2010-2013 funding cycle, RFFA paid for work on:
- A new NE/SE Twenties Bikeway from Lombard Street to the Springwater Trail: $2,097,850
- bus stop development & streamline program: $1,414,000
- Westside Trail from Rock Creek Trail to Bronson Creek Trail: $2,399,337
- 40 Mile Loop from Blue Lake Park to Sundial Rd: $2,322,421
- SW Rose Biggi from Hall to Crescent: $2,758,238
- 102nd Avenue from NE Glisan to E Burnside: $2,000,000
- McLoughlin Blvd from Clackamas River Bridge to Dunes Dr: $3,401,868
- Red Electric Trail from SW 30th to SW Vermont: $1,929,183
- school bus diesel engine emission reduction: $1,414,000
- French Prairie Bridge from Boones Ferry Rd to Butteville Rd: $1,250,000
- Council Creek Trail from Banks to Hillsboro: $218,044
- Willamette Greenway Trail from N Columbia Blvd to the Steel Bridge: $444,800
Projects are nominated by jurisdictions within Metro. Recommendations from Metro's JPACT committee weigh heavily on the agency's decision of which projects get money.
 Freight advocates ask for more money
In a June 8, 2010 letter to Metro's JPACT committee, a group of freight traffic customers coordinated by BEST formally asked Metro to use less of its flexible funding program on bikes and walking and more on freight improvements.
"Historical funding levels for freight projects throughout the RFFA (approximately 1.8% of total funds per cycle) are not sufficient to address our region's pressing need to create jobs and increase economic activity," wrote the group, which included:
- Port of Portland
- Portland Business Alliance
- Oregon Trucking Associations
- Columbia Sportswear
- Fred Meyer Stores
- Oregon-Columbia chapter of the Associated General Contractors
- Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce
- South Metro Business Alliance
- Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council
- Oregon Association of Nurseries
- Blount International
- Schnitzer Steel
- Cement Masons Local 555
- Warn Industries
- Norris, Beggs and Simpson
- The Greenbrier Companies
"Too many areas are dependent on outdated industrial road and rail access, and many of our companies are competing globally against firms using state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure/networks," the group wrote.
"We want a good bicycle infrastructure, because for one thing it makes a more efficient use of our transportation system," he said. "It's really really critical that people don't come away with the idea that the freight industry doesn't want bike lanes."
"The discussion we need to be having is not: 'How much money do we want to spend on bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure,'" Collier said. "Of course we'd like to be able to spend more. The real question is: 'What is a healthy amount?'"
Collier suggested that "40 percent? 50 percent?" of the $20 to $24 million in RFFA grants be spent on freight.
In comments to the full JPACT June 8, Jason Tell of ODOT said that the historical shortage of bike and pedestrian funding compared to freight funding has been "turned on its head," with the comparatively small bike and pedestrian grant availability rising "500 percent" in the same period that freight funding had risen only "50 percent."
 Bike and pedestrian advocates shoot back
Gross, the Coalition for a Livable Future lobbyist, said the request, if granted, would endanger a precious source of new bike and pedestrian projects in Portland.
"These small amounts of money make a huge difference for bike and ped," Gross said. "They're a drop in the bucket for freight."
"There are other sources of funding for freight," she added. "$630 million is spent on transportation infrastructure in the Portland region every year. Only 2 percent of that goes to bike and ped."
In 32 letters to JPACT, various community members and organizations weighed in on the side of bike and pedestrian funding, including:
- Kaiser Permanente Community Health Initiative
- Willamette Pedestrian Coalition
- Westside Transportation Alliance
- Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc.
- Sullivan's Gulch Trail Committee
- Steve Bozzone of Active Right of Way
- Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten
- Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee
- Mary Elizabeth Smith of the Beaverton Bicycle Advisory Committee
"If reducing congestion is a goal for freight, then the freight community should not suggest drastically reducing one of the more successful and cost-effective tools we have for doing so," wrote Matthew Arnold of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee.
 JPACT shoots for 75 percent to bike and pedestrian projects
At a July 8 JPACT meeting, the committee voted to target 75 percent of RFFA grants in the 2012-2015 cycle to active transportation projects and 25 percent to freight projects, minus $500,000 set aside for an unrelated electric vehicle program.
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