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Bill moving through Salem could hasten transfer of state roads to city control

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Portland-area streets described by ODOT as “highways to be transferred to local jurisdictions” are marked in pink. The blue line, Cornelius Pass Road, is a request from ODOT for a transfer in the other direction.
(Image: ODOT testimony on SB 117.)

Barbur Boulevard, Powell Boulevard, Tualatin Valley Highway, Lombard Street, 82nd Avenue and Macadam Avenue could all be lined up for gradual transfer from state to city control under a bill before Oregon’s legislature.

Senate Bill 117, which got its first public hearing Monday, would assign a 12-person task force to complete a draft report by the end of 2015 for prioritizing which so-called “orphan highways” within city limits for the state to upgrade and transfer to local control.

As we reported in November, state legislators, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Metro and a broad-based group of transportation advocates have endorsed a 1-cent gas tax hike that would be dedicated entirely to improving orphan highways to the point where cities would be willing to take them off ODOT’s hands.


Moving streets from state to city control has long been a goal of neighborhood and safety advocates. The 1999 transfer of Sandy and Martin Luther King boulevards from state to city control led to changes such as a streetcar on MLK, extensive crossing improvements on Sandy and within a few years, substantial new business investment along both streets.

More recently, ODOT has been considering requiring rural-style 12-foot-wide travel lanes on Southwest Barbur even if a federally funded bus or rail line converts it to a dramatically more urban-feeling street. That’s the sort of position that the City of Portland is seen as less likely to push for.

This stretch of outer Southwest Barbur, however, seems to be absent from ODOT’s map of transfer candidates, as does Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard. The inner wooded stretch of Southwest Barbur seems to be marked for transfer.

ODOT’s testimony packet also included several other local detail maps in urban areas, plus a map of possible transfer candidates statewide:

SB 117, which would have minimal fiscal impact in itself, is looking strong based on its top-tier sponsors: Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland; Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton; and Business and Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield. But there’s been no formal movement in the legislature yet on the transportation funding bill that might include the proposed 1-cent gas tax on which this list hinges. The legislative session began last month and will continue through July.

— Read more of our 2015 legislative session coverage here.