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New transportation bill in Salem includes $78 million to widen Portland-area freeways – UPDATED

Posted by on June 24th, 2015 at 2:59 pm

salemleglead

Legislators held a special hearing today
to hear testimony and learn about
the new proposal.

Despite growing consensus that the main effect of widening roads is not to reduce travel times but rather to lengthen car trips, Oregon’s overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature seems to be preparing to approve a bill that would spend around $78 million to add lanes and widen several freeways in the Portland metro area.

More widening projects are also planned around the state.

HB 2281, the 73-page bill being debated in Salem today, would raise $370 million through a mix of new vehicle registration fees and a two-cent gas tax increase. About $125 million of that would go to the Portland metro region (ODOT Region 1). The bill also includes 25 earmarked projects — most of which would widen freeways to “improve safety and provide congestion relief” and allow for “freight mobility improvements.”

There’s nothing in the new bill set aside specifically for bicycling or walking, though the multimodal Connect Oregon program would continue, presumably still funded by the state lottery.

You can read a useful summary of the bill here, but here’s the operative text from the bill itself:

Screenshot 2015-06-24 at 2.19.01 PM

As you can read above, state funds for the Portland area would be spent either on wider freeways ($75 million) or on on one of four other projects:

  • $3 million to add standard travel lanes to Interstate 205 west of Oregon City
  • $20 million in unspecified “improvements” to Cornelius Pass Road, a mostly rural route in Washington County that has sometimes been discussed as a possible route for a future freeway bypass
  • $2 million to increase the vertical clearance on a freeway overpass
  • $25 million to improve Powell Boulevard through East Portland enough for a jurisdictional transfer to the City of Portland

This list refers only to state projects funded by the new revenue. Half of the revenue from the hikes would be passed from the state to its cities and counties, who could then spend their share of the money on whatever roadway projects they saw fit.

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Because of a series of ballot issues in the 1980s, Oregon’s constitution prohibits spending auto-related fees and taxes on off-road bikeways or mass transit. However, advocates had hoped that Oregon’s most Democratic state legislature in a generation would create a permanent fund for making multimodal urban roadways like Powell Boulevard, Barbur Boulevard and 82nd Avenue safer to walk, bike and drive on.

For advocates of a shift to more biking and walking, the one bright spot in the plan so far might be the allocation for outer Powell. East Portlanders have pushed hard for walking and biking improvements there.

Another notable piece of the bill would allow transit districts to levy an employee payroll tax (0.185 percent of wages earned) that must be spent on improving bus operations and service. TriMet already collects employer payroll taxes, but this would be slightly different because it’d presumably show up on employee paychecks rather than being hidden on the employer’s side of the ledger. In the TriMet district, this would generate an estimated $71 million annually — enough to increase TriMet’s bus operations budget more than 40 percent.

This bill is a far cry from the agreement before this year’s legislative session in which automotive interest groups teamed with other transportation groups to endorse a larger inflation-indexed gas tax hike.

So far, the representatives of oil and gas businesses seem supportive of the bill. This is likely because it was created as an alternative to a “clean fuels” bill that had already passed the legislature but is now on the brink of repeal as Democrats try to cut a deal with Republicans on the broader package. The new bill calls for fuel blending, something oil and gas lobbyists prefer to a mandate on a new type of fuel.

Stay tuned as we try to keep up this fast-moving bill. For more on today’s hearing, follow the Oregon Environmental Council on Twitter. We’re also indebted to Gerik Kransky, advocacy director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, for helping us follow some of the details.

Download a PDF of the current version of this bill here.

Jonathan Maus contributed reporting to this story.

Correction 12:01 am: An earlier post used a different estimated value in the headline for the planned Portland-area freeway widenings. The corrected headline reflects the $20 million cost of “improving” Cornelius Pass Road, which is not a freeway.

UPDATE, 6/15 at 11:12 am: This package is dead. Governor Kate Brown says there’s “no path forward” this session. Full story at The Oregonian.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Chris I
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Chris I

And nothing for earthquake retrofits. Genius.

rick
Guest
rick

I-205 from Stafford to Oregon City “improvements” would require 2 new Tualatin River bridges along with numerous new overpasses and underpasses.

Amy
Guest

We can’t afford to fix the neighborhood greenways there’s just not enough money!

That was sarcasm.

Adam H.
Guest
Adam H.

Hopefully Portland would spend its share of the extra funds on safety projects. Can the funds be used for protected bike lanes, since they’re technically not off-street?

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

Would this trigger proper shoulders on Cornelius Pass Rd? I’d love to be able to ride it from Skyline to Hwy 30 again. Easiest way over the hill.

The Duke
Guest
The Duke

Smoke and Mirrors!

politicians are like street magicians, they’re just trying to screw you out of your money!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Treason–more driving=more oil use=more US $ to terrorism supporting countries. Starve ISIS–ride a bike!

Ty
Guest
Ty

This is good news. Wider freeways = less cars on greenways.

Tomas LaPalella
Guest
Tomas LaPalella

We’re growing by leaps and bounds and people are still driving. Nothing is going to radically change that in our lifetimes. I know that’s not what any of the commenters here will ever admit, but maybe it’s time to get real and come to grips with the fact that cycling does not, and never will, work for everyone. We need increased road capacity before our city is total gridlock, and I suspect these funds still won’t do nearly enough to handle demand. Bring on the lanes! All the luxury condo dwellers operating in a greenwashed cloud of denial will need the room to drive their Priuses, be it to Whole Foods or Orchard Hardware.

PdxMark
Guest
PdxMark

$125M in Region 1? Pfft. A sop to the commuter interests… and road building companies…

Cost per lane mile for urban freeways are $5M-$20M.

http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2011/mar/19/sam-adams/portland-mayor-sam-adams-says-portlands-spent-its-/

There are 6 different freeway segments mentioned, meaning 12 different segments to cover both directions. At an middling cost of $10M/mile, those 6 segments will get 1 mile each of new freeway lanes. NOt a fix to anything…. And I-5 is off the list because, despite being the most congested, it would cost way more than $20M/mile, and devastate any neighbor widening touched.

And all our bike infrastructure to date has cost a bit over $60M….

“Damn cyclists should be helping to pay for the roads”… We are. Clearly.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

But !?! …. But !?! …. JOBS!

Brad
Guest
Brad

Stupid, stupid. No road expansion until we can afford to repair and maintain all the pavement we already have!

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

There is one little tidbit for cycling interests down in Lane (Lame?) County in the bill. On Territorial Highway just north of Lorane there is a long recognized need to do some work and there’s funding for it in the bill. This is the site that gave rise to ORS 811.065, the law that requires motorists to give cyclists room to fall in their direction when passing on a road without a bike lane and a speed over 35 mph. (Sadly, no law enforcement agency in the state has ever written a citation for this common violation.)

Color me underwhelmed.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I read the whole bill and found interesting stuff.

Virtually every fee associated with a vehicle or driver’s license is proposed to increase. The title fee goes up to $125. The annual fee for most motor vehicles goes from $43 to $53. But get this:

The proposed annual fee for a electric OR hybrid vehicle goes to $188. While I can see justification for a higher fee for plug-in electric vehicles, I don’t see the justification for the MASSIVE increase for hybrids. That’s an extra $135 per year. A Prius owner who drives 6000 miles per year would pay $188 plus $33.68 in gas tax on 105 gallons. Meanwhile, the owner of a Dodge Ram pick-up who drives 6000 miles would pay $43 for a license plus $128 in gas tax on 400 gallons (15 mpg). Yes, that’s right, the Prius owner pays more to the state for driving 6000 miles than does the owner of the Dodge Ram. ($221.68 for the Prius and $171 for the Dodge Ram.) Is that CRAZY or what?

My 23-year old car puts no demand on the transportation system when it’s in the garage. It only does so when it’s being driven or parked on the street. Revenue should be generated by taxing USE, not ownership.

As I’ve suggested before on this forum, we should have a really big increase in the gas tax that is far more fair because it taxes use and lets the owners of big, inefficient vehicles pay their fair share. I’ve written to my representative and senator outlining my opposition to the current bill and supporting a much larger gas tax increase.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Their revenue shortfall terror has made them forget that we want hybrids, and electric cars, and should subsidize the highest mpg and lowest emission vehicles that you can buy.

Much of the cost of car ownership is fixed. Registration and insurance don’t normally care how much you drive. Add in a bus pass which was almost what driving daily would cost, and I found it would have been cheaper to drive into Portland from Beaverton as long as I found a free parking spot. (in a 15mpg Dodge truck).

Everything should be done by miles and weight, and gas taxes are a close enough approximation to that. Electric cars are still rare, and Portland does have some of the cleanest electricity available (unless you are a salmon- but most of those dams arent going away). Tax them in a few years (per mile) when there are enough of them to worry about. Right now they’re getting a bit of a free ride, but are also testing new technology for all of us too.

EngineerScotty
Guest

To echo PdxMark–the amount of money being discussed does NOT buy very much concrete; though if we’re talking a revenue stream of $78M/year, that could pay for that list of projects over time.

Also, does the propsed I-5 widening between Bridgeport and Tualatin refer to an additional project beyond what’s being built right now?

And I wonder what the city of Maywood Park thinks of the proposed I-5 widening that passes (howsoever briefly) through their city limits?

Andy K
Guest
Andy K

There is a rumor that Cornelius Pass will be an ODOT facility very soon.
Also, $20M will go a long way there. I’m hoping for a super-roundabout at Skyline, which will take about a quarter of the budget. The remainder could smooth out a few curves.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I suggest people join me in writing your legislators to tell them you want bike and ped safety improvements included in HB 2281.

Go here and use the find box in the lower right to get the email addresses of your reps: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/

rider
Guest
rider

And yet there’s no funds available for flashing pedestrian beacons on Powell or 82nd. Love those ODOT priorities.

Brian Willson
Guest

It is very sad that we cannot break our addiction to king car culture which just speeds up carbon emissions (particles of mass destruction) and distracts us from serious pursuit of sustainable and durable bioregional living. It is like we have a suicide wish.

Kenji
Guest
Kenji

So interesting thing- during a public meeting we had a top level staffer from ODOT tell us that for electric and hybrid vehicles there won’t be a VMT for electric vehicles if this passes. It’s either VMT OR the increased registration fee. Which is kind of a shame since prefer to see everyone go the way of VMT- and this renders OreGo useless for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

FYI
UPDATE, 6/15 at 11:12 am: This package is dead. Governor Kate Brown says there’s “no path forward” this session. Full story at The Oregonian.

Dan
Guest
Dan

Going to have trouble passing anything with a gas tax in it, if you want to get reelected.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Looks to me that the Oregon Legislature is working on their own mini-CRC for widening the I-5 corridor south of the border bite by bite.

I hope all the loud anti CRC types south of the Columbia get to work to call their legislators to scuttle this…or else then they threw away light rail to Vancouver and a world class bikeway to Portland (the “baby” as part of the CRC “bath water”).

Oh…by the way I have not heard of the anti-CRC (pro transit) forces working on a plan B to get the LRT to Vancouver yet (or Jantzen Beach) yet. Anything in the works? I hope so.

The anti LRT (anti bike path) pro CRC highway types are still hard at work on getting “THEIR” bridge built see the links below. (They do have a nice little train and bike on their animation… we will see if it survives the “design” process.)

http://thirdbridgenow.com/returnTrip3.swf

http://thirdbridgenow.com

bjcefola
Guest
bjcefola

I can’t tell from coverage but would like to understand: did the decision to cease efforts come from legislative leaders and the Governor accepted it, or was it the reverse?

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Tait
The Dakotas and Canada are not a terrorism-supporting countries, last I checked.

What about those Coal Rollers in ND we heard about from NPR last year?

The local ND correspondent, who has no national level articles after his critically panned “Coal Rollin’ is Gud Clean Fun!”, presented a subset of Murica that gets their rocks off on scaring, gassing and otherwise terrorizing other people “jus cuz”.

Certainly not usually lethal but….

oregon111
Guest
oregon111

here is something that you all never thought about…

by increasing gridlock, you are going to price housing in the inner city to levels never heard of before – because people with $$$ will not tolerate a 3 hr commute 1 way to travel 5 miles

have fun moving to gresham

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

How can we make sure this flawed set of transportation funding priorities doesn’t come back in the next session.