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7 interesting nuggets buried inside Oregon’s new transportation bill

Posted by on July 6th, 2017 at 6:31 pm

People walking - SE Powell at 93rd-1

Powell Blvd got a major funding boost in the bill, but it’s biggest advocate inexplicably voted no.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon’s statewide transportation bill is on its way to Governor Kate Brown’s desk. With support from boths sides of the aisle it passed the House yesterday 39-20 and passed the Senate today 22-7.

House Bill 2017 was on the rocks just weeks before its passage; but that was before lawmakers hashed out major compromises. The initial proposal would have raised over $8 billion dollars — including about $777 million for four freeway widening projects in the Portland metro region. Funding for those projects would have come from a new local gas tax and increased registration fees. Those fees and taxes brought auto lobbyist groups out of the woodwork in opposition. With the threat of referral to voters, lawmakers slashed the funding for those highway projects, reduced the size of tax increases, and ultimately shrank the bill’s overall revenue by about $3 billion (they also got environmental groups and Republicans to agree to changes in the low carbon fuels program).

The amended bill will raise $5.2 billion over 10 years. And while the big-ticket highway project earmarks — including I-5 expansion at the Rose Quarter — went way down, the revenue share for public transit, biking and walking remained intact.

Among other things, the bill will provide: $103 million a year to transit agencies to improve bus service via a 0.1% employee-paid tax on wages; $125 million for Safe Routes to School via a 40% matching grant program; and an estimated seven million per year (exact amount will fluctuate) dedicated to paved paths and multi-use trails via a combination of sources including a $15 bike tax. The boost in gas tax revenue will also help pay for road projects that will include a minimum of 1 percent investment in biking and walking-related upgrades thanks to Oregon’s “Bike Bill”.

While not perfect, the bill is being hailed by The Street Trust and their partner organizations as a major win with unprecedented investments in active transportation. They have reason to be happy. The Street Trust’s Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky was ever-present in Salem; at the table for months to protect pieces of the pie. In part due to his advocacy and organizing, Oregon will make its largest ever investment in biking, walking, and transit!

We’ll share more from Kransky and the bill in general in the weeks to come. For now I’d like to share a few nuggets I came across while combing through its 250-pages…

Project oversight weakened by ODOT

The initial version of the bill called for ODOT to submit a written analysis of the costs and benefits of all their major projects (those included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, STIP). The provision was included as an accountability measure and a way for the Oregon Transportation Commission (and the public) to prioritize highway modernization and capacity increasing projects. In a letter to lawmakers ODOT Director Matt Garrett objected to the initial language and requested amendments.

Garrett said requiring cost-benefit analysis reports on all projects in the STIP would be too costly. He wanted the requirement to only apply to projects that cost over $25 million (the original bill language had no cost threshold). Lawmakers agreed, and then went one step further. The bill passed yesterday says ODOT must only do a cost-benefit analysis on projects over $15 million. They also added language that makes all 42 highway projects earmarked for $647 million in funding completely exempt from the requirement.

Oregon-based advocate with Transportation for America Chris Rall said the exemptions would increase the chances of future project boondoggles. “In an earlier analysis I found only three projects over $10 million and I don’t know how many of those were over the $15 million threshold,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers on July 1st. “Since the bill also exempts from CBAs [cost-benefit analyses] all earmarks and all Congestion Relief Projects, it’s unclear what projects CBAs would even apply to… the $15 million threshold will render the effort fruitless.”

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The strange tale of Powell Boulevard

Rep. Bynum.

Powell Boulevard is an urban freeway a wide arterial that runs through Portland and has a terrible safety record. It’s a state highway managed by ODOT, a fact that hamstrings the City of Portland’s ability to make changes that would save lives. Both agencies want it to go through a jurisdictional transfer that would allow PBOT to manage the street from I-205 east to the Portland city limits (around 174th). The only reason that hasn’t happened already is because PBOT doesn’t want it until it gets major maintenance and safety upgrades that are estimated to cost about $110 million.

With pressure from voters and lawmakers, this was the year it would finally happen. The initial version of HB 2017 included some funding (about $6 million) and language that would require ODOT and PBOT to hash out an agreement on the transfer.

But somehow, thanks in part to hard work from State Representative Janelle Bynum (more on her later), the final version of the bill appears to fully fund the Powell upgrades. In section 71(d), amid a list of $249 million in projects to be funded in Region 1, the bill states, “Southeast Powell Boulevard jurisdiction transfer.” The bill further states that the upgrades must be completed before the transfer can take place. There’s a bit of mystery still because the bill doesn’t attach a specific dollar amount to the Powell transfer project. However, a close read of the two versions of the bills leads us (and a source with knowledge of the issue) to have confidence that $110 million is on its way to Powell Blvd and its new home is with PBOT.

Which brings us back to Rep. Bynum. For the past several months she raised awareness about the need for safety improvements to Powell Blvd. Yet despite the good news delivered in the final version of the bill, Bynum voted against it. She was one of 16 House Democrats who issued a veiled threat to vote against the bill if lawmakers didn’t address revenue needs for other public services; but she told the Portland Tribune her signature shouldn’t be taken as a “no” vote on the transportation bill. We reached out to ask why she voted against it and have yet to hear back.

*Note: The bill also calls on ODOT to study the cost of upgrading inner Powell from SE 9th to I-205 and then transferring it to PBOT by 2020.

Earmarks for ‘pedestrian safety’ projects

Active transportation advocates have even more to be happy about than the funds this bill dedicates to transit, paths and Safe Routes to School. The Street Trust estimates the bill includes $1.3 billion for those three things over its 10 years.

The actual amount is much higher because not all “highway projects” are freeway and bridge expansions.

Despite early calls for the bill to avoid earmarks, HB 2017 includes $647 million for 42 specific projects. Of those, nine are listed as “pedestrian safety” projects. One of them from our region (Region 1) is labeled “Columbia Boulevard pedestrian safety.” I’m not aware of the details of all these projects, but they’re a good reminder that not all ODOT projects are about auto capacity and many of the “highway projects” they build also have significant bicycling and walking elements.

The hidden e-bike tax that subsidizes cars

Electric-assisted bicycles are growing in popularity. Unfortunately — as we saw with our post earlier today — their legal status is still murky on many fronts. One of them is in tax law.

HB 2017 includes a new, 0.5 percent “motor vehicle privilege tax” that will be paid by motor vehicles dealers. Included among the motor vehicles this tax applies to are electric-assisted bicycles. E-bikes are exempt from the new $15 bicycle excise tax, but at an average retail price of about $3,500, dealers will have to pay about $18 for the privilege of selling them. In another strange twist, this privilege tax on e-bike dealers will go into the new $12 million “Zero-Emission Incentive Fund” that will give people rebates on their purchase of zero-emission cars and plug-in EVs.

This is not good policy. For the purpose of tax law, e-bikes should be classified as bicycles. Perhaps we’ll see a fix to this in the interim 2018 legislative session.

Gas tax increases are conditional

The bulk of revenue raised in this bill is from gas tax increases. They’re expected to raise $1.3 billion over the course of 10 years. But lawmakers have put a list of conditions on the gas tax increases from 2020 onward.

The conditions are laid out in section 45 of the bill. They include stipulations that the Oregon Transportation Commission identifies “sufficient shovel-ready highway projects… to justify the increase,” and a requirement that two “congestion relief” projects on I-205 are funded and completed. Other conditions are status reports on any project over $20 million that hasn’t been completed, including the I-5 Rose Quarter widening project.

Possible win for bike theft recovery?

As we shared in our post today about the bike excise tax, bike dealers will now be required to keep receipts for up to five years. This could be a boon for bike theft recovery efforts.

Some big shops (like Bike Gallery) already keep records on all bikes sold as a service to customers in case a need for warranty or other issues arise. One piece of information that’s often important is a bike’s serial number. Many people never record theirs and are happy to know that when their bike gets stolen, they can call up the shop and get it. With this new requirement, every shop that sells new bikes could potentially keep a bike’s serial number on file.

A better use for unused ODOT property?

Another provision in the bill in the accountability section calls on ODOT to compile an inventory of “property that is in excess of the department’s operating needs.”

ODOT owns a lot of land adjacent to their roads and freeways. Much of it is kept vacant just in case they want to expand the facility, or to store and stage equipment. But as we saw with the 25-acre Gateway Green parcel, this land can often be put to better use. ODOT owned Gateway Green for decades before advocates envisioned using it as a bike park instead. ODOT ultimately sold it to the City of Portland and now we have a wonderful new place to enjoy.

It makes me wonder… How many other Gateway Greens are there in Oregon? Where else can we build a few bike trails or a pump track?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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91 Comments
  • Michael Andersen July 6, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    $110 million entirely to make outer Powell bikeable, walkable and crossable is amazingly good news. East Portland’s future Main Street.

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to do more reporting on this, but some more things I’m curious about:
    – Cities and counties get big formula-set chunks of any new gas tax revenue, too, right? Does that mean that if the state gas taxes rise as planned, Wheeler’s (IMO really exciting, whatever happened to this?) concept for dedicating the new general revenue from expired urban renewal districts to a transportation bond would not happen? Does it mean the local gas tax will be allowed to sunset? Does it have any implications for the county’s ability to rebuild the Burnside Bridge?
    – What exactly is the deal with the Rose Quarter? Is it enough money to do all the engineering? To hire CH2M to have poster tables at all the Sunday Parkways about how a nicer Rose Quarter bike lane makes bigger freeways worthwhile? To do any actual construction work?
    – There’s something hand-wavey about a decongestion charge?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 6, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      Good questions Michael. Adding them to my list for next week.

      – Cities and counties get big formula-set chunks of any new gas tax revenue, too, right?

      Yes they do. The bill allocates $674 million to cities with Portland bgetting $150 million, Beaverton getting $22.8 million, and so on.

      Does that mean that if the state gas taxes rise as planned, Wheeler’s (IMO really exciting, whatever happened to this?) concept for dedicating the new general revenue from expired urban renewal districts to a transportation bond would not happen? Does it mean the local gas tax will be allowed to sunset? Does it have any implications for the county’s ability to rebuild the Burnside Bridge?

      I have no idea about this. would have to do some research (or pay someone else to do it).

      – What exactly is the deal with the Rose Quarter? Is it enough money to do all the engineering? To hire CH2M to have poster tables at all the Sunday Parkways about how a nicer Rose Quarter bike lane makes bigger freeways worthwhile? To do any actual construction work?

      This is one of my highest priority stories for next week. I’m combing the bill to find all the ways that the I-5 projects has stayed alive in this bill. In general, the consensus is that the bill only funds planning for Rose Quarter project, not enough to do all the design and engineering. But I’m still not crystal clear about everything it does for the project. Working on that still.

      – There’s something hand-wavey about a decongestion charge?

      In section 120, the bill lays the groundwork for what they’re calling “value pricing”. I requires ODOT to get fed approval to do it on I-205 and I-5 by 2018.

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      • MJ2 July 7, 2017 at 4:41 pm

        See my post farther down the page. Short answer: I-5 Rose Quarter will be fully funded (@ $30 million/year for 25 years, to pay off bond) and other projects also funded.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:09 am

      The Mayor’s initiative (called Build Portland) is still on! Not much in the way of public statements lately, but $50 million first round bond is still being discussed for major maintenance this year, with the majority for transportation. Expect mostly paving projects, potentially some traffic signals, and opportunities for re-striping and whatnot to improve safety. Future rounds could be much larger and include bigger projects like bridge replacements and street reconstruction projects.

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      • maccoinnich July 7, 2017 at 10:54 am

        There’s also a City Council work session regarding Build Portland scheduled for August 1st.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:09 am

      My understanding is that Rose Quarter is fully funded, but not until 2022 when an additional increment of gas tax kicks in. But it’s a bit confusing, so I could be wrong.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:20 am

      The formula funds increase is significant, but I don’t see why it would impact the local gas tax. The deferred maintenance and safety needs in Portland are huge, and the new formula funding will still not come close to meeting the need. If anything, because the bill dropped the earlier proposal for a local surcharge for freeway projects, there is more taxing capacity for a renewal of the local gas tax.

      It certainly seems like this is good news for the Burnside Bridge replacement project, though Multnomah County will still need a lot more funding for a project of that magnitude than the formula funding will provide.

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  • Matt Meskill July 6, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    This does not seem like a major leap toward Vision Zero.

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    • Big Knobbies July 6, 2017 at 10:25 pm

      Put on the fluorescent colors before heading out in the day, high-viz reflective material at night, use lots of flashing lights day and night, and ride defensively all the time – you’ll be a little safer. 😉

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  • Paul July 6, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    The Powell transfer is only east of 205? Ugh. Still a good thing, but why not all of it?

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    • David Hampsten July 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      EPAP has campaigned for a decade with local legislators to get the transfer for the area of East Portland (east of 82nd), as well as fully fund the project. It’s their highest transportation priority since 2009. Inner neighborhoods & SEUL have not campaigned as much for such a transfer nor for changes on Powell.

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      • Terry D-M July 8, 2017 at 12:17 am

        You are correct, but it is on my list of things to work on.

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  • SaferStreetsPlease July 6, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Powell west of 205 is also extremely dangerous. Why is that stretch not being transferred to PBOT? That’s ridiculous.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      It is! The bill calls for ODOT to “study the cost of upgrading Powell from SE 9th to the 205” and then transfer it to 2020.

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      • David Hampsten July 6, 2017 at 8:48 pm

        Typo: *Note: The bill also calls on ODOT to study the cost of upgrading inner Powell from SE 9th to I-205 and then transferring it to ODOT by 2020.

        … Should be “then transferring it to PBOT by 2020.”

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  • J_R July 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Calling Powell Boulevard an “urban freeway” is more than hyperbole, it’s simply wrong! A freeway has a specific definition and Powell Boulevard doesn’t meet that definition. It would be like calling your 27-speed touring bike a “track bike.” It is simply wrong.

    By all means, complain about Powell Boulevard. I attended the ODOT meetings on the “Safety Project” and complained about their plans. I take exception to ODOT’s proposal to cut trees near Cleveland High School, their proposal to eliminate the bike lanes on 26th Avenue, and their refusal to implement a School Speed Zone, but calling Powell by the wrong designation does nothing to persuade ODOT and legislators to do the right thing.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      Hi J_R,

      You make a fair point. I edited that sentence. I actually used “freeway” because I remembered former Mayor Sam Adams once referred to nearby SE Foster as the “Foster Freeway” and I sort of mixed that quote up with Powell here.

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      • David Hampsten July 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm

        Powell is more of a farm-to-market rural road that happens to be in an urban setting. During the time of Sam Adams, Foster has or had 4 lanes for most of its length, with actual speeds to match. Powell east of 205 to the Gresham line is only 2 lanes (one in each direction). While the speed limit on Powell is probably higher, the congestion is so bad that hardly anyone can go very fast for very far.

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  • rick July 6, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    ODOT could build bike paths along parts of highway 217.

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  • David Hampsten July 6, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    The $110 million figure for outer Powell is the cost if ODOT builds the 4-mile road to the standards of the Outer Powell Boulevard Conceptual Design, which was approved by Portland City Council in 2012. What is very unknown is how much it would cost PBOT to build the same road. Given the relatively recent construction of Cully Blvd by PBOT, it may be a lot less than that. In addition to the new $6 million in this bill, Powell has received (saved up) at least $3 mil from a 2012 MTIP project + $17 mil from Rep. Shamia Fagan + $2 mil for engineering + $9 mil from Connect Oregon bonds + $13 mil in PBOT TSDC funding = $44 million. PBOT has also applied for a federal TIGER grant and other grants, which may add another $20 million.

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    • Big Knobbies July 6, 2017 at 10:28 pm

      If Portland is a sanctuary city, some of those federal funds may evaporate; as they should.

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      • George Dorn July 7, 2017 at 9:43 am

        So you’re saying Portland should spend more tax money doing ICE’s job?

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        • Big Knobbies July 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm

          No, just turn over illegals to ICE. Will cost Portland nothing; and will save the taxpayers a lot of money in the long run.

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          • J_R July 8, 2017 at 8:38 pm

            You might want to watch something other than Faux News.

            The Congressional Budget Office in 2007 answered the question about the economic drain supposedly caused by immigrants in the following manner: “Over the past two decades, most efforts to estimate the fiscal impact of immigration in the United States have concluded that, in aggregate and over the long term, tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants—both legal and unauthorized—exceed the cost of the services they use.”

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      • Matt Pennington July 7, 2017 at 10:15 pm

        Per the SCOTUS any already designated money no matter what the Trump administration wants to do will continue to flow to the city but it could endanger future projects.

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        • CaptainKarma July 8, 2017 at 11:31 am

          Assuming the regime stands.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:10 am

      This bill includes $110 million for Outer Powell, not $6 million.

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      • David Hampsten July 7, 2017 at 9:37 am

        Pages 87-88, lines 44,45, 1-9, 25-29
        They are allocating $249 million for all of ODOT Region 1, with a series of expensive projects, of which outer Powell is one. The amount of money needed for all the projects together is far greater than the amount allocated.
        Page 144, lines 17-23 is where they talk about transferring outer Powell.
        Actual amounts are not discussed anywhere in the document, either for $6 mil or $110 mil.

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        • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 11:33 am

          The other projects are all pretty small, actually. Powell is $110 million out of the $249 million. You might be misunderstanding the I-205 projects they list, which are roughly $15 million and more like operational improvements rather than widening.

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          • David Hampsten July 7, 2017 at 5:14 pm

            I sincerely hope you are right. I’d like to see the protected bike lanes all along the 4 miles of outer Powell, as already envisioned by ODOT.

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  • VRU July 6, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    The $7 million figure quoted by Jonathan is based on an earlier version of the bill that essentially froze funding for bike/ped infrastructure. The amended bill apparently has a new source of funding (privilege tax) for connect oregon that dramatically increases (up to ~$24 million per year) in *new* funding for bike/ped infrastructure.

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    • VRU July 6, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      typo: that dramatically increases funding for bike/ped infrastructure.

      link: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2017/A-Engrossed

      See section 90.

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      • David Hampsten July 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm

        There’s also ped/bike improvements on many of the mainline projects, for example the $110 million for outer Powell.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:15 am

      One issue we have in Portland is that very few projects actually qualify for ConnectOregon. Projects have to be commuter routes, but can’t be the bike route associated with a public roadway. So many trails don’t qualify because they are parallel facilities to freeways or roads (Sullivan’s Gulch, for example), or because they are more recreational in nature (Columbia Slough, for example). Stand-alone ped/bike bridges such as Flanders Crossing are some of the only projects that actually qualify in Portland. Suburbs actually have a lot more ConnectOregon opportunities because they have trails planned for utility corridors or abandoned rail lines.

      All that said, the increase in funding is significant and we have plenty more bridges to build!

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      • David Hampsten July 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm

        “we have plenty more bridges to build!”

        Literally and figuratively. Now that we have “skin in the game” and the legislation is finalized, we can start to work our arch-nemesis, the car lobby, to increase usable capacity within existing corridors and reduce/eliminate human fatalities on our roadways.

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      • Terry D-M July 8, 2017 at 12:22 am

        North Portland Greenway Trail segments Cathedral Park in Saint John’s to the Rose Quarter. That is an extremely expensive trail that is critically needed to access the Swan Island Employment area.

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        • David Hampsten July 8, 2017 at 7:26 am

          Since East Portland residents are more likely to work on Swan Island and the Columbia Corridor than downtown, I suggest you work for an alliance with EPAP to support both of these projects (North Portland Greenway and Columbia rebuild), even though they are well outside of East Portland.

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    • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
      Michael Andersen (Contributor) July 7, 2017 at 3:55 am

      So there’s a 0.5 percent “privilege tax” that the auto seller pays on each auto sale, and then a 0.5 percent “use tax” that the auto buyer pays? Is that right?

      Denmark’s maximum tax on auto sales is 150 percent. Just 149 more percentage points to go!

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  • B. Carfree July 6, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    When an emergency quadruple by-pass is necessary, I have a hard time getting excited over the application of a wonderful band-aid to the cut on my shin. Sure, it’s a very nice band-aid, but without the emergency quadruple by-pass I’m not going to really enjoy it much.

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  • Kevin July 6, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Will we see more bike trails along ODOT roads, or more strip malls, convenience stores and gas stations?

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  • Kittens July 7, 2017 at 12:24 am

    After seeing what a mess the city is making of all the major bike infrastructure of late (20s greenway or really, just about any recent greenway) I am decidedly pessimistic about the potential good of all these millions of dollars flowing in to active will have here.

    The problems with bike infrastructure in Portland are often not massive in scale. They are lack of priorities. They are stupid things like stop signs every ten feet on the River Road bike path going down to Milwaukie. Or the convoluted Tillicum crossing. Or bike lanes disappearing into thin air whenever some business decides they need a few on street spots.

    Look no further than to the cluster that is the lower Clinton bikeway from 12th to OMSI for what a virtually blank sheet of paper and unlimited budget buys us. These tortured workarounds flourish in a absence of organizational leadership and are an embarrassment to those forced into it’s absurd logic. Something no amount of money can fix.

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    • 9watts July 7, 2017 at 7:10 am

      I wish I didn’t find myself agreeing with you.

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    • Gary B July 7, 2017 at 11:27 am

      “After seeing what a mess the city is making of all the major bike infrastructure of late”…

      “The River Road bike path going down to Milwaukie.” That’s not in Portland.
      “Or the convoluted Tillicum crossing.” That’s not PBOT.
      “Or bike lanes disappearing into thin air…” Fair point, even if a generalization.
      “the lower Clinton bikeway from 12th to OMSI.” Also not PBOT, I think (I assume it was also done by Trimet).

      None of which is to say I don’t agree with you, I just think we should discuss relevant examples.

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      • Adam
        Adam July 7, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        The Twenties Bikeway.

        Years of planning only to result in: just two diverters for it’s entirety, a convoluted, zig-zag route that takes an unnecessarily hilly route, poor crossings of major collector streets save for a couple pedestrian hybrid beacons (with buttons out of reach for cyclists), a nonsensical double two-way cycletrack over I-84 with a confusing mid-block crossover, poor signage, and a route that conveniently avoids literally all destinations one might want to ride a bike to.

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        • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm

          Surely there are more than three diverters? There’s one at 28th/Wasco (already existed, but still), one at Burnside, one at Stark, and one at Powell. So that’s three new ones and it used one additional existing one.

          I wouldn’t measure the success of a greenway by the number of diverters, but rather by actual volumes and speeds of traffic…and how many cyclists use it, of course. So far I’m finding it incredibly useful and don’t really mind the zigs and zags, just like I don’t mind them on Tillamook. It’s still faster to take a meandering neighborhood greenway than to ride on a major street with tons of traffic signals stopping you all the time.

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          • 9watts July 7, 2017 at 6:29 pm

            “It’s still faster to take a meandering neighborhood greenway than to ride on a major street with tons of traffic signals stopping you all the time.”

            Huh?

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            • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 8:05 pm

              Try it sometime. Time yourself. Most of the time neighborhood greenways are faster than bike lanes for longer trips. Bike lanes are nice for local access to businesses, but not for long distances. Every signal adds delay, and most neighborhood greenways have fewer signals and therefore less delay.

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              • Adam
                Adam July 7, 2017 at 10:20 pm

                What if I don’t care at all about time or speed? What if I instead care about comfort and access to destinations? Greenways don’t bring much to the table in that regard.

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              • 9watts July 8, 2017 at 7:17 am

                You just switched horses on us.
                You were comparing greenways (the newer zig-zaggy flavor) with ‘major streets,’ saying the former were faster. Now you’ve switched to comparing neighborhood greenways to ‘bike lanes.’ When you write ‘major streets’ I assumed you are talking Hawthorne, Sandy, Chavez, Foster Powell, 82nd. I guarantee you I’ll get where I’m going faster on those, for the same reasons those in cars also habitually take those.

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              • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 10:39 am

                Oh, come on. Bike lanes are on major streets, and neighborhood greenways are on local streets. It’s not hard to understand. The point is, signals are the primary cause of delay, and far outweigh a few zigs and zags.

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              • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 10:40 am

                Adam, that’s why we need both. But we should be clear about the different functions they serve.

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              • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 10:44 am

                9watts, you sound like a pretty strong and fearless rider, if you’re riding on those major streets without bike lanes. So forgive me if I don’t take you as much of an authority on what we should be building in the city. We’re trying to make the city better for interested but concerned and all ages, remember? They are not interested in bombing down major streets and keeping up with car traffic. Comfort and safety are more important, and all I’m saying is that neighborhood greenways tend to offer the best combination of comfort, safety, and speed for the majority of riders who don’t ride super-fast and don’t want to ride in traffic. Protected bike lanes are great, but unless you can time the signals for a green wave (very difficult outside of downtown), they will be slower than a neighborhood greenway.

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              • 9watts July 8, 2017 at 7:47 pm

                “signals are the primary cause of delay, and far outweigh a few zigs and zags”

                I guess we’ll have to have someone measure this. My experience tells me otherwise.

                “forgive me if I don’t take you as much of an authority on what we should be building in the city.”

                Now you’ve switched horses *again*. I wasn’t talking about what we should be building; I was pushing back on your claim that the zig-zaggy 20s bikeway is __faster__ than the direct route we used to take.

                “all I’m saying is that neighborhood greenways tend to offer the best combination of comfort, safety, and speed for the majority of riders…”

                Well that may be what you are saying now, but that wasn’t what you were saying upthread at all.

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              • J_R July 9, 2017 at 2:15 pm

                “The point is, signals are the primary cause of delay, and far outweigh a few zigs and zags.”

                If signals really were the primary cause of delay, why would motorists use the arterial streets rather than the local street that lack signals?

                Whether you are on a bike or in a car, you get stopped by traffic signals only some times. You need not stop when it’s green. In contrast, STOP signs are there and legally require stopping every time. Since neighborhood greenways often cross arterial streets, the delay at those stop signs can be considerable.

                I’m glad you like neighborhood greenways, but I think you are incorrect about travel time on those relative to on-street bike lanes on arterial and major collector streets.

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        • Kittens July 8, 2017 at 3:01 am

          Yes! the new Twenties bikeway is the absolute worst.

          Seriously, how many people are going to use that thing other than parents with timid kids?

          I thought we had the best and brightest city planners and transportation bureau. This should have been an easy project running through some very bike-centric neighborhoods. God help us when they start pushing projects out in east county.

          Something about seeing our local government so inept and frankly wasteful with the scant resources it has for bike transpo makes me mad. Here’s an idea, why not just buy up the parking spaces on 28th and put the bike lanes where they ought to be in the first place. Pay for it by using the millions of dollars we would have wasted on hawk signals, signage, contra-flow bike lane paint, construction labor and engineering studies and write checks to these uninformed business owners. Bam! problem solved forever.

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          • 9watts July 8, 2017 at 7:20 am

            I agree with you completely, but I’m not sure it is a matter of our local government “so inept and frankly wasteful ” than local government “so spooked by interests who demand continued free onstreet parking.’ This is a flavor of Car-head, and very much represents screwed up priorities, but, yeah.

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          • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 4:19 pm

            I’ve actually found it to be very useful, and it’s already transforming my rides for the better (note: I am neither parent nor child). For example, today I rode from the Alberta area to Hawthorne district. In the old days I would have ridden down 28th, being stressed out the whole way from Broadway to Stark, then Stark over to 33rd (also stressful), then down 33rd/34th to Hawthorne (only mildly stressful). Now I was able to ride the 20s from Broadway to Stark (yes, a few turns, but basically the same travel time), continuing down across Belmont, then Yamhill to 35th, then 35th down to Hawthorne. Basically zero stress, minimal hills, minimal traffic. It’s confounding to me that you can claim it to be the “absolute worst.” Maybe it’s not quite what you were hoping for, but that’s a pretty extreme thing to say.

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            • 9watts July 8, 2017 at 7:53 pm

              “It’s confounding to me that you can claim it to be the ‘absolute worst.’ Maybe it’s not quite what you were hoping for, but that’s a pretty extreme thing to say.”

              Maybe by absolute worst, kittens meant to compare what we got (zigs, zags, the need to memorize dozens of lefts and rights, and a route that doesn’t take you past the places of commerce many of us might have imagined ourselves patronizing) with what is done in other places, where those on bikes are not habitually shunted away from business districts and direct routes onto side street mazes. I might have used a different phrase but I think I get where she/he is coming from.

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    • paikiala July 7, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      K,

      17th bike path? Portland’s boundary is Ochoco. Everything south is outside of Portland.
      Lower Clinton, unlimited budget?
      PBOT hasn’t even begun upgrading Clinton west of 12th yet, let alone set a budget.
      What city are you talking about?

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      • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        I think they’re talking about the Clinton-to-the-River Path.

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        • paikiala July 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

          Clay to the River?

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    • SE Rider July 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      How do you feel about the 50s bikeway?

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      • Adam
        Adam July 8, 2017 at 11:30 am

        I live on the bike lane portion of the 50’s bikeway. It’s utter garbage. Way too many cars to feel comfortable. I won’t ride on it unless I absolutely have to. North of Division is better but honestly it’s not like much was really done there that wasn’t already existing. There’s only a single diverter at Division and one improved crossing at Burnside. Why was nothing done at Hawthorne, not even striping? Though striping doesn’t do much, honestly — crossing Stark and Belmont still suck.

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        • mark July 9, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          I feel like crossing Hawthorne at 52nd isn’t that bad, as there isn’t much traffic east of 50th. What really bothers me is that between Hawthorne and Stark, people must ride up and over a big hill with some zig-zags and weird crossings. When I lived there, I always rode on 49th, which goes all the way through and is mostly level. Unfortunately, 49th is narrow and has a lot of motor traffic, which can make it feel unsafe.

          I hate it when motor traffic gets a level, straightforward route, while bikes are forced to ridiculous detours. Speaks volumes of our city’s true priorities.

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          • Adam
            Adam July 11, 2017 at 10:17 am

            While crossing Hawthorne at 52nd isn’t terrible, it feels dangerous. Yes, traffic is light, but the street is wide and lacks a centerline, so it’s difficult to tell where cars are going to be or how fast they are going. And the offset crossing makes sight lines tricky.

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    • MaxD July 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

      The Going Greenway between 7th and Concord! What an abject failure! Instead of putting protected lanes on Skidmore so people on bikes could use signals to cross MLK, Williams, Vancouver and Interstate, they have bikes darting across MLK, Williams, Vancouver, Mississippi and out-of-direction travel at Williams/Vancouver and Mississippi?Michigan. This a clear case of not prioritizing a safe, direct bike connection to commercial districts and intersecting bike routes and favoring some barely used on-street parking.

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  • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 12:28 am

    The Columbia Blvd Pedestrian Project referenced in the bill is for replacement of the George Middle School pedestrian bridge over Columbia Blvd in North Portland. It is too low for over-dimensional freight, and therefore one of the handful of barriers to switching the US 30 Bypass designation from Lombard to Columbia Blvd. It is also near the location where a kid was hit while crossing the street last year. Many people don’t bother using the bridge because it has stairs and is less convenient than running across the street. The money is intended to demolish the existing bridge and either build a new bridge or a signalized at-grade crossing.

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    • Matthew in Portsmouth July 7, 2017 at 9:00 am

      I think a signalized crossing would be better. It is my experience that people would rather brave the traffic than climb stairs and cross a bridge.

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      • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

        Agreed.

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    • Gary B July 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

      That’s fantastic news!! Both helping the crossing of Columbia and changing the 30 Bypass designation would be huge benefits for me and my St. John’s community.

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      • paikiala July 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm

        Not sure how the bypass (Lombard) would get switched. Most trucks can fit under the current bridge. It’s the over-dimensional (tall) ones that can’t, and several of the bridges can’t handle over weight loads. Visit Columbia and Macrum any time of day to watch trucks move between Columbia and Portland Road.

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        • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 10:45 am

          It’s just the first of several projects needed to switch the designation. It will still take millions more, but this is a start.

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    • paikiala July 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      That part of Columbia doesn’t need five lanes.
      https://goo.gl/maps/Qn2o3gX4k952
      Median refuge signal crossing and protected bike lanes, anyone?

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  • Kittens July 7, 2017 at 12:29 am

    — oops. i mean the stop signs on the path along SE 17th not River Road

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 11:36 am

      Yes! Those stop signs are ridiculous. Who would ever stop at those? Such a weird decision to prioritize the very occasional driveway user over much more frequent cyclists.

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      • Dan A July 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        IMO, those only exist so that they can lay the blame on cyclists when a car/bike collision happens on that path. Not if, but when.

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  • Jonathan July 7, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Can e-bike buyers get a rebate from the “Zero-Emission Incentive Fund” since they are technically purchasing a motor vehicle?

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    • Matt Pennington July 7, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      E-bikes by statute are technically bicycles I believe.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu July 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

    While the bill seems less than perfect, and we can debate how much less, it will result in a very significant increase in funds for transit, bike and ped improvements in addition to major investments in some roads (Powell Blvd) that really need it.

    It also seems like the first steps will be taken toward an eventual tolling of I5 and I205.

    The major loser, as far as I can tell, is some large highway projects. We can disagree about that, but I imagine many BP commenters are not displeased.

    The taxes on bicycles ($15 per taxable bike) and e-bikes (about $18 per) are frustrating but, in the scheme of things, fairly small.

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    • Chris I July 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      I’m totally okay with freeway widening if it is 100% paid for with congestion pricing tolls. The mouth-frothing opposition from the Vancouver commuters is going to be intense, though.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy July 7, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        If only those Oregon-based employers would stop hiring them.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu July 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        Don’t forget the Portlanders who work in Vancouver. Like me, sometimes.

        But it (tolling of the bridges) should be done. I would personally like to see the funds go to extending MAX to Vancouver, but a dedicated bus-and-carpool lane for the new articulated Vancouver buses, going from the EXPO center MAx station, could be worth trying.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy July 10, 2017 at 8:31 am

          Most of the people who say nothing should be done to the I-5 bridge are seldom if ever on the I-5 bridge.

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          • 9watts July 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

            Just think, if more people eschewed the I-5 bridge maybe the problem would take care of itself? 😉

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          • Adam
            Adam July 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

            Something should be done, all right. Extend the yellow line over the Columbia. Maybe even offer a ferry from Vancouver to downtown Portland. Then let all the drivers solve their traffic problems on their own.

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    • Beeblebrox July 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Yep. The biggest loser is Clackamas County, which got zero dollars for their massive project to widen I-205. Which is perfectly fine by me.

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  • MJ2 July 7, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Story says “And while the big-ticket highway project earmarks — including I-5 expansion at the Rose Quarter — went way down…..”

    Not quite. Not by a long-shot. Not if you read the bill carefully and know where to look. Here’s why:

    – I-5 Rose Quarter is still funded at $30/year (likely over 25 years, to pay off a bond), which will cost about $800 million over the life of the bond.
    – OR 217 NB & SB projects are funded (their cost is about $99 million)
    – the I-205 Active Traffic management and Corridor bottlenecks are funded ($40.7 million)
    – The Value Pricing Set-up project has no direct funding in the bill, but it will get start-up funding that was described Fiscal Analysis, of at least $3.6 million, but could be another $10 million.

    The last of the big-ticket projects is the I-205 widening and Abernathy Bridge project. While the bill doesn’t have direct funds, it lays the groundwork for this project by requiring a “cost to complete” next year and follow-up reports to the (now-permanent) Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization. Don’t be surprised if some money starts flowing to this project over the next 6 years as it becomes more “shovel-ready”. In addition, it is probably the #1 project that ODOT wants to fund with its formula freight funds, and ODOT will likely continue to apply for competitive freight funds for this project. And if tolling provides funds, that is another source of revenue.

    So overall, Portland-Metro did much, much better with the bill that passed than the May 31st draft of the bill.

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  • Jeff Allen July 7, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    A few notes re: e-bikes and electric vehicle rebates

    I would be the last one to defend the bike tax, which is bad policy on many fronts. We also did not support the tax on new car sales, or the higher annual fees that will kick in for electric and fuel-efficient cars starting in 2020.

    Whether e-bikes pay the flat $15 fee or the 0.5% tax is not likely to make much difference in either the price of the tax, the price of the bike, or the total amount of revenue raised (which will be small.) Virtually all the revenue paying for electric vehicle rebates will come from the sale of gas cars and trucks.

    Rebates will also be available to electric motorcycles and low speed neighborhood electric vehicles (after Jan 2019) Unfortunately, we were not able to include rebates for electric bikes this time around… but we will keep working to promote them!

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  • eawrist July 8, 2017 at 8:31 am

    I hope ODOT uses some of these funds to study the removal of I5 on the East Bank. This, not widening freeways, should be its priority in the Pland area.

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    • Beeblebrox July 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

      Apparently Mayor Wheeler wants to reopen that discussion…we’ll see if it goes anywhere!

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