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Governor Brown’s line-item veto could erase $2 million needed for SW Capitol Highway project

Posted by on August 9th, 2017 at 12:32 pm

The state funding would have helped connect an existing PBOT project on Capitol Highway between Huber and Taylors Ferry Road through a complicated set of intersections known as “West Portland Crossroads.”

With one swipe of her pen, Oregon Governor Kate Brown can take away the final piece of funding for a southwest Portland transportation project that’s been a dream for neighborhood advocates for over 20 years.

Graphic: PBOT

The Governor’s office announced yesterday that Brown intends to veto four line-item appropriations in House Bill 5006. One of those four is the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Southwest Capitol Highway project. (The other three are in the souther Oregon district of House Rep. Sal Esquivel and The Oregonian is reporting they are part of political gamesmanship between he and Brown.)

The project, which would bring updates to a one-mile stretch of Capitol Highway between Multnomah Village and Taylors Ferry Road, has been identified as a top neighborhood priority since 1996. As we reported last fall, PBOT estimates the total cost to be upwards of $12 million. Once completed, the project would add a continuous sidewalk and protected bike lane on the east side of Capitol Highway and a multi-use path on the west side. It would also include updated crossings, better bus stops, and other elements. In their most recent update, PBOT said construction on the project was on track to begin in 2019.

Most of the funding is already in-hand thanks to $3.3 million from the Fix Our Streets program (the single largest allocation citywide) and another $6-7 million from system development charges (most of the cost of the project is for stormwater management upgrades). House Bill 5006 allocated $2,050,587 for the project which would have been used to supplement local funding for a segment of Capitol Highway between Taylors Ferry Road and Huber St (a complicated set of intersections known as the “West Portland Crossroads”). The bill reconciled leftover pieces of the state budget for the 2017-2019 biennium and listed millions in appropriations for a variety of programs and projects. It passed the Oregon House and Senate early last month with overwhelming support.

On July 11th, Southwest Neighborhoods Inc. volunteer advocate Marianne Fitzgerald and Multonomah Neighborhood Association Highway Subcommittee Chair Chris Lyons wrote a letter of thanks to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland City Council. “We are extremely pleased that City of Portland advocated for this project in its State Legislative Agenda and that the 2017 Oregon Legislature appropriated $2,050,587 to supplement local funding in HB 5006… It is a critical safety project for our community.”

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But yesterday they had to follow-up that email with this one:

“You can imagine how extremely disappointed we in the community are that Governor Brown has proposed to line item veto the SW Capitol Highway project.

This is an extremely important project for our community. It will fill a critical gap in the sidewalk and bike infrastructure between two “centers” and improve Stormwater management in an area with documented issues. If the city truly wants to enable people to access key destinations like Multnomah Village without depending on motor vehicles, we must fully fund the SW Capitol Highway project from Multnomah Village to West Portland.

I hope you will convince the Governor to fund this project and not line-item veto it from the HB 5006 package.”

Governor Brown said she plans to veto the project because it wasn’t included in the $5.3 billion transportation project passed this session. “The SW Capitol Highway project is not included in the package that was negotiated in a bipartisan and careful manner,” she wrote in an official statement. “It should receive the same vetting process as other transportation projects and be evaluated on its own merits in future legislative sessions.”

It would appear that a project that has been in neighborhood plans since 1996 and has been the focus of a refinement planning process since 2011 has had plenty of vetting. It’s also worth noting that the most expensive transportation projects passed by the legislature — widening of freeways in the Portland region — have very dubious merits.

Roger Averbeck, a veteran southwest Portland neighborhood advocate is scratching his head. “I do not understand the Governor’s logic on this, since the bill was vetted through the legislature, supported by key legislators, and passed. Someone at a very high level should ask the Governor’s office to explain why this particular project is subject to veto.”

PBOT’s Active Transportation Division Manager Margi Bradway heard about the veto last night, just minutes from stepping into the monthly meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee to give a presentation on PBOT’s legislative successes. When she came to the bulleted item listed as “$2 million for SW Capitol Highway” she had to deliver the news. “The governor has vetoed this,” Bradway shared. “We are still committed to the project and the city will find a solution going forward; but we were disappointed by the news.”

NOTE: I’ve edited this post to reflect the fact that Governor Brown hasn’t vetoed this project yet. Her office has issued an “intent to veto” but sources say it’s not over until it’s over. Stay tuned.

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

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John Liu
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John Liu

Is this one of the line item vetos aimed at Rep Esquivel?

rick
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rick

So much for equity.

Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

Which means that an entirely new bill funding the project will have to wait until the next session in 2018…and maybe longer. Zeroing it out because wasn’t part of the bill that got passed this year sounds illogical at best. Could we be looking at another 20 year wait? One hopes not.

rick
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rick

Am I supposed to wait until sunrise to walk through nearby Woods Park in order to safely get from SW Garden Home Road to SW Barbur Blvd?

rick
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rick

Numerous adjacent roads to this section become stormwater creeks and rivers despite the many trees and shrubs. I nearly only ride this section of Capitol on the weekends.

m
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m

Sounds like she is trying to prevent pet projects from getting through. It begs the question: Why wasn’t this project included in the $5.3 Billion transportation project?

David
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David

There is a very simple way to handle this scenario that can quickly change the conversation, though it would need to go somewhat viral. Propose that the fixes to Capitol Hwy happen as much as possible but leave a small stretch unimproved (since most of the project is funded minus the $2MM in limbo) and call it the Kate Brown Safety Corridor complete with signage in both directions.

Pretty sure that if that gained enough traction she would back down from the veto on funding for this project. Of course if she didn’t, then every crash in the Kate Brown Safety Corridor would be subject to extra attention noting that the Governor specifically cut funding to this project which would have prevented the crash.

This project needs to happen as it’s so hard to get anywhere in SW on bike and this project would resolve one of the more egregious gaps.

Disco Stu
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Disco Stu

I got hit-and-run at this very spot

Keenan
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Keenan

I left a voicemail with Kate Brown’s office, and if you can keep it respectful (unlike some of these comments), I urge you to do so as well. 503-378-4582.

Kathrin Uber
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Kathrin Uber

We have lived in Multnomah our entire lives…my mother said she would be dead beforead they put sidewalks on Capital Hwy….I believe she is right…again funding is being used for something else. Multnomah was remodeled 3 times! !!!!! Find the money!!!!

Tim Grabe
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Tim Grabe

I live in the Multnomah Village area and drive Capitol Hwy. often. To avoid traffic on this busy roadway, pedestrians walking alongside the road are often stumbling into shrubbery and wading through mud puddles as they struggle to walk to their bus stop or walk to the Village. Sidewalks and safety improvement would make life safer for this entire area of SW Portland. Hopefully the bill will not be vetoed.

JF
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JF

Sorry to hear it! Kate Brown and others need to understand how sorely needed these improvements are and with the curves, high population, and no shoulder at all for pedestrians or trails for bikes–how a child could be the next victim in a hit and run. I am pissed to have voted to pay for these improvements, have it pass, and then have her renege. Not okay.