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Project Prioritization

V: From Indian Country

The Quinault Indian Nation’s seal is a blue circle with a horizontal line bisecting it. In the top half of the circle is an illustration of an island with pine trees; the bottom half contains an image of an eagle in a canoe.

Quinault Indian Nation

The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) is a federally recognized tribe located in western Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula near the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. The QIN land use planner, Jonathan Ciesla, is responsible for reservation land use and transportation planning. 

Project Prioritization

Quinault project prioritization was a four year process. It began with the updating of the policies of the Transportation Plan and the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Discussions with the reservation communities and the Quinault governing body were required. A Project Priority List was prepared and then refined to capture American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The final TTIP represents the steps followed by Mr. Ciesla, summarized here.

Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The Quinault Transportation Plan was approved by the Quinault Business Committee via resolution in June 2007.[3]

The Plan identifies projects and services necessary for reservation transportation. The Transportation Element of the Quinault Comprehensive Land Use Plan complements and reinforces the findings in the Transportation Plan.

A photo of Jonathan Ciesla, the QIN Land Use Planner.

The projects from the documents, along with suggestions from the Tribal Community Services Division, were compiled by Mr. Ciesla and presented at three meetings to determine community preferences. These meetings were held in November 2007 and January 2008 with the Taholah, Queets, and Amanda Park reservation communities.

According to Mr. Ciesla, the meetings:

“Allowed me as staff to take a list of projects to the reservation community to ensure what we were planning met the community’s needs and, if we missed any priority, we could incorporate it. It was the final piece of the puzzle to guarantee adequate public involvement as we moved forward with government approval.”

Reservation community participation is documented in the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which was endorsed by resolution in 2008.

Project List. In March 2008, Mr. Ciesla presented the project list to the Quinault Business Committee. The committee selected its top five and directed Mr. Ciesla, via resolution, to prioritize the remaining projects with health, safety, and welfare criteria. Resolution 08-211-86 is shown in Appendix C. The projects recommended for additional prioritization are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Remaining Projects to be Prioritized, QIN Resolution 08-211-85

Name Village Effected Project Description Type Source Health Safety Welfare Total
Accident Monitoring Program Reservation Accident database Road Plan 0 25 0 25
Sidewalk Assessment Taholah All sidewalks Path Plan, RW 0 25 25 50
Chip Seal Reservation 10 miles Road RW 25 25 25 75
Bus Service Reservation Improve transit service on Reservation Transit Plan,PM 0 25 25 50
Industrial Park Roads Reservation PS&E Road RW 0 0 25 25
New High School Road Taholah PS&E Road RW 0 0 25 25
Rec Trails Task Force Reservation Commission Task Force Path Plan,PM 0 0 25 25
Speed - US101 Amanda Park Reduce speed for safety Road PM 25 25 25 75
Transit Stop Restrooms Amanda Park PS&E Transit Plan 0 0 25 25
School House Lane Taholah PS&E Road Plan 0 0 25 25
SR109 Corridor Mgt Plan Reservation Staff support to GH COG Road Plan 0 0 25 25
Traffic Count Program Reservation Implement Program Road Plan 0 25 0 25
Tsa'lal Housing Roads Amanda Park PS&E Construct and Widen Roads Road Plan 0 0 25 25

Prioritized Tribal Priority List. As shown in Table 1, Mr. Ciesla applied a value of 25 to the projects that satisfied the health, safety, and welfare criteria set by the Committee. No additional value was assigned to projects that did not meet the criteria. This resulted in several projects with identical scores. To determine project priority in descending order, Mr. Ciesla sought assistance from an advisory group from the QIN Planning Department. This included the Community Development Manager, Economic Development Planner, Land Use Planner, and Office Manager. Together they applied knowledge of reservation needs, community preferences, and the policies of the Transportation Plan for final ranking of projects in descending order.

QIN Project Prioritization Four Year Time Line

June 2007: Approval of Transportation Plan by resolution

November 2007: Project prioritization community meetings

January 2008: Project prioritization community meetings

April 2008: Approval of Land Use Comprehensive Plan—Transportation Element by resolution

April 2008: Approval of initial project prioritization by resolution

March 2009: Approval of Quinault ARRA-TIP by resolution

May 2011: Approval of Quinault 2012-2015 TTIP by resolution

The group gave planning and data gathering projects lower priority than construction or other urgent physical improvements. Its work produced a prioritized Tribal Priority List, with the first five projects representing Business Committee preferences and the remaining representing community preferences and Transportation Plan recommendations.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA-TIP).[4]

Before the Tribal Priority List was brought to the Business Committee, an opportunity for ARRA funding became available. Mr. Ciesla, with the Tribal Community Services Division, prepared a stand-alone ARRA-TIP using the Tribal Priority List and emergent projects, which were urgent and ready-to-go. The QIN ARRA-TIP was approved by the Business Committee via resolution in March 2009.

Tribal Transportation Improvement Program (TTIP). With the time sensitive ARRA-TIP done, Mr. Ciesla consolidated the Tribal Priority List and ARRA-TIP. He applied a cost estimate for each project for each year of TIP funding, using the tribe’s BIA funding allocation for FY2011 as baseline. No inflation was added to future years. This produced the financially-constrained five year QIN TTIP. It is presented with the Tribal Resolution in Appendix C.

According to Mr. Ciesla:

“Including my (Land Use Planner) position in the Resolution to provide any additional information to the BIA was strategic and a time saver. For its IRR-TIP, the BIA requires additional, technical information for each project. The clause (in the resolution) allowed me the ability to provide what is needed without interfering with the official policy or approval process.”

Another objective was to achieve a balanced, multimodal approach. The TTIP includes road construction, transportation safety, transit services, pedestrian upgrades, recreational trail improvements, and emergency preparedness.

Transmittal. The Quinault Business Committee approved the 2011-2015 TTIP in May 2011 via Resolution 11-50-90 shown in Appendix C. The Tribal President formally transmitted the TTIP to the BIA.

In preparing the TTIP, Mr. Ciesla advised the key objectives were to:

“incorporate all existing transportation project priorities into one document and financially constrain them based on past funding levels. I used un-inflated past funding levels to account for any changes that may or may not occur with the IRR funding and its formula allocation. We can always amend the numbers later.”

Mr. Ciesla described his experiences in project prioritization as:

“A useful education in how to bring concrete reality (public input and tribal agency needs) to the abstract process of policy and government approval. We now have a TTIP that is more than a requirement for funding. When implemented, we will have satisfied the Federal requirements and, most importantly, met the needs of the tribal community. It doesn’t get more functional than that.”

A photo of a two-lane recently paved rural road with a guard rail along the side.

Updated: 5/8/2015
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