Oregon transportation talk expected to ramp up

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, October 16, 2015

Transportation funding is expected to take center stage at the Oregon statehouse during the next regular session.

Senate President Peter Courtney said recently that a major transportation revenue plan must be legislators’ top priority in the 2017 regular session. The Legislature meets for only five weeks in 2016, and lawmakers are not expected to have enough time to get a deal done.

Courtney, D-Salem, made his comments following the release of a new study by the Oregon Department of Transportation on the condition of bridges in the state. The report concludes that if the state were to be hit by a major earthquake, as many as half of the bridges would collapse, especially in western Oregon.

The bridge report also puts a dollar figure to the cost to the state’s economy if the bridge system is not adequately maintained. In the next 20 years, ODOT found that the state could be forced to forfeit $94 billion in production and 100,000 jobs.

“Oregon’s bridges are hurting. Some need repairs. Others need to be replaced,” Courtney said in prepared remarks. “We don’t have the funding to keep up. If the Legislature doesn’t act, our bridges and our economy will collapse.”

He also said returning lawmakers and anyone else interested in running for office next fall better be ready to hammer out a road and bridge deal.

“If you want to be in the Legislature; if you want to be governor; if you want to be secretary of state or treasurer; you need to be committed to passing a major transportation plan,” he said. “Everyone needs to know what they are signing up for.”

Critics say what Courtney says and does are two different things. They refer to his decision earlier this year to save the state’s low-carbon fuel standard at the expense of working on a deal to fund roads and bridges.

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