Oregon officials wrestle with transportation needs

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, June 02, 2016

Officials in Oregon continue to work to find the best path to address the state’s transportation needs. One group recently wrapped up their evaluation of the state’s infrastructure and possible funding methods while another group is setting out to get feedback from the public.

The Governor’s Transportation Vision Panel has released a final report on the state’s transportation system and has included a list of recommendations to address needs in the years ahead.

The 35-member advisory panel was convened in 2014 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber to evaluate all aspects of the state’s transportation infrastructure, including possible sources of revenue to address a $324 million annual shortfall in road and bridge funding.

The group, made up of state officials and business leaders, was put on hold following Kitzhaber’s resignation in early 2015. The panel was reformed last fall by Gov. Kate Brown.

Among the group’s recommended priorities are to maintain existing roads, to speed freight movement through central Oregon, and to improve transit services. Challenges identified by the panel include how to accommodate a 25 percent growth in population by 2035 and a 60 percent increase in freight traffic over the same time period.

Specific to trucking, the panel recommends investing in truck rest areas and port drop sites to reduce traffic during peak hours of congestion.

Options listed as funding sources for road and bridge work include raising existing taxes and fees or creating new ones.

On the heels of the advisory panel releasing its report, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization met in Salem in late May to hold their first of nine scheduled public meetings. The 14-member panel is working to develop a statewide transportation package for consideration during the 2017 regular session.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said it is important for the group to get an early start on coming up with workable solutions to address the state’s funding needs.

“If we wait until session, we’ll get stuck in traffic,” Courtney said in prepared remarks. “The committee has a long way to go. It has to identify Oregon’s needs. It has to develop a plan. It has to build consensus of support if we’re going to reach our destination.”

Among the items on the panel’s first meeting agenda was a review of the report from the governor’s vision panel.

The preservation and modernization committee is in the middle of a statewide tour to see for themselves traffic flow and safety concerns and possible solutions as well as the challenges faced by truck drivers and motorists.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • June 13, 5 p.m., Great Hall, Mount Tabor Building, Portland Community College SE Campus, 2305 S.E. 82nd Ave., Salem;
  • June 28, 5 p.m., Four Rivers Cultural Center Theater, Treasure Valley Community College, 676 College Blvd., Ontario;
  • June 29, 2 p.m., Hermiston High School Auditorium, 600 S. First St., Hermiston;
  • July 20, 5 p.m., Prince Lucien Campbell Hall, Room 180, University of Oregon, 1415 Kincaid St., Eugene;
  • Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m., Wille Hall, Coats Campus Center, Central Oregon Community College, 2600 N.W. College Way, Bend;
  • Aug. 31, 5 p.m., Jackson County Library, Medford Branch, 205 S. Central Ave., Medford;
  • Sept. 15, 5 p.m., Ballroom, Embarcadero Hotel, 1000 S.E. Bay Blvd., Newport; and
  • Sept. 19, 5 p.m., Shirley Huffman Auditorium, Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main St., Hillsboro.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, said it is important that officials hear from the public about their transportation priorities.

“This tour will give us the chance to discuss shipping routes with business owners, traffic flow with community leaders, and congestion with commuters,” Beyer stated.

The next legislative session begins in February 2017.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Oregon, click here.

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