The Transparency Project: Part 4 – What Are the CIP Projects? Where Are They?

8 May

This is the fourth post from the Transparency series, following the steps of the Mode Shift CIP game board. We continue our study of the City of Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), with a look at these questions:

  • What are the CIP transportation projects?
  • Where are they located?

What are the CIP Projects?

Mode Shift’s CIP database classifies the projects by Work Type:

  • Automobile Capacity – Projects that add lanes of automobile traffic or otherwise allow more automobile capacity.
  • Automobile Infrastructure – Replacement of automobile infrastructure that has reached its end of life, without any increase to automobile capacity.
  • Transit – Improvements to the public transit system. These projects have no City funds and are not run by the City, so perhaps they don’t belong in the CIP. But the BRT project is in the CIP, so we are including it as well.
  • Streetscape – Improvements to a street front such as wider sidewalks, bump out at street crossings, better lighting, and bicycle parking.
  • Pedestrian – Improvements for pedestrian traffic, such as ADA compliant sidewalks, foot bridges, etc.
  • Cycling – Improvements to cycling routes such as protected lanes, painted lanes, signage, etc.
  • Other – Green street corridor study and master plan, and city-wide safety projects.

In all cases, it is the driver behind the project that dictates the category. So if a widening project also replaces aging infrastructure, adds ADA compliant sidewalks and access to a cycling trail, it is considered an Automobile Capacity project, because none of the other improvements would occur if not for the driving desire to widen the street. Mode Shift relied on the CIP project descriptions to apply the Work Type to each project.

The $322 million of Capital Budget spanning from 2017 to 2022 is split as follows:

So 80% of the improvement budget is for automobile traffic. As mentioned in Blog 2 of this series, the CIP is for improvements, and does not include the cost of street maintenance, but it’s good to add it to the chart to remind us how the street maintenance budget dwarfs the improvement budget:

The City’s budgets from 2015 to 2017 appropriated an average of $64.4 million per year for street maintenance. That average is then projected forward for the 6 years of the capital budget – a total of $386.3 million (note that this estimate is low: it is likely that the street maintenance will increase to continue the current “catch-up” effort).  So the street maintenance budget is greater than the entire CIP for the same period. And with 80% of the CIP adding lanes and automobile capacity, the street maintenance cost will continue to grow.

The charts above include all fund sources – City, federal and local (for a reminder about how these funds differ, see our earlier blog post here). Let’s take a look at the same years (2017-2022), but only for City street bonds:

The percentage for automobile traffic goes up to 88% when federal and local funds are removed.

To finish up this section, let’s take a look at the past. As explained in a previous blog post, we have only a fraction of the past CIP cost – just the street bond expenditures from 2007 to 2013:

The past percentage spent on automobile capacity (63%) is close to the future spend in the capital budget (62%). In the past, the City spent 15% of street bonds on the federally mandated ADA sidewalk compliance. Now that this is complete, the funds have moved to automobile infrastructure while the other categories are about the same. Click here for a look at the CIP projects behind these numbers.

Where Are the Projects?

The Mode Shift Project Map

This interactive map shows every project on the past nine CIPs. Each project is color coded with it’s Work Type, and a circle that indicates the approximate cost of the project. When you click on a project, a pop-up window displays all the project’s details.

  • Click here to view the map
  • Click here to view the map’s legend and for information about using the filters.

By default, the map displays all the projects from all the CIPs, including cancelled ones. The filters can be used to display only the projects in the current CIP.

A note about the project size: The map attempts to portray the size of each project. If the past costs were available, this would be an easy matter: for completed projects, the size would be proportional to the project’s cost, and for ongoing projects, the size would be proportional to the project’s cost to date plus the project’s capital budget. But, the project costs are not available, so we had to estimate the size of the projects using what data that is available. Those who want all the details will find them in the map’s legend.

Projects By Sector

We’ve also started a project to display where the transportation capital budget funds are to be spent. We divided Omaha into sectors and totalled the funds per sector.

Click here to view the capital budget 2017-2022 by sector.

The map shows the distribution of the capital budget by fund group (City, federal, local), and includes the percentage of total funds to be spent in each sector. Most of the City funds are spent in “City-Wide” projects that are not itemized by sector. The majority of the other projects are located along the Dodge Street corridor.

The division of the funds by sector is approximate: when a project is on the boundary of a sector or spans across a boundary line, we attributed the entire project to one sector. A future update of this map will attribute the projects across all the sectors they serve. For a list of all the projects that make up the numbers on the map, click here.

Conclusion

80% of the CIP funds are used to promote automobile capacity. At the current rate, the street maintenance budget is more than all the combined capital improvement projects. The maintenance cost will increase as recent street widening projects add more lane-miles to maintain.

The Mode Shift maps allow the public to see the location of past and future transportation projects. We hope that the City will consider displaying the CIP data in similar ways.

Our next blog will address Who selects the projects? How are citizens engaged in the process? Stay tuned!

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