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Decision time for $4 billion transportation funding measure at Metro Council today

Posted by on July 16th, 2020 at 2:38 pm

After 16 months of meetings and planning, the Metro Council will decide at their meeting today whether or not to refer a $7 billion package of transportation investments to the ballot in November.

Get Moving 2020 is being framed as a job creation measure that will put people back to work to build a slew of infrastructure projects across the region. Metro says the list of projects and programs will cost $4 billion and would leverage nearly $3 billion more in federal funding. To pay that local amount, the initiative would be funded with a 0.75% payroll tax on employers with over 25 employees and would kick-in starting January 2022. The package of investments are supported by a broad coalition of elected leaders and transportation, environmental, racial and social equity groups.

In a letter of support written on July 7th (PDF), members of the Getting There Together Coalition wrote, “We recognize the opportunity we have right now to come together around a community-built plan, to begin to take meaningful action that builds a more equitable transportation system that works for all.”

Some activists think the measure invests too heavily in the SW Corridor MAX Light Rail Project and doesn’t go far enough to balance the modal playing field. Of the 16 corridors that would be funded, the MAX line would is pegged to receive nearly $1 billion of it. Beyond that project however, the measure would invest an unprecedented amount in key corridors like Tualatin-Valley Highway, 82nd Avenue, the lower Albina area, and others. If passed by voters it would fully fund PBOT’s Central City in Motion network of protected bike lanes.

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(Just a few of the proposed investments.)

According to Metro project manager Tyler Frisbee who attended the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, the projects were spread around the region with the specific intent to, “Make sure the benefits support everyone in the region, particularly those left out or harmed by previous transportation investments.”

Interestingly, Frisbee said the investments would create “safer” streets, not “safe” streets. She made the distinction in direct response to the recent protests around racist policies and police brutality. “I will talk about safer streets, not safe streets,” Frisbee said, “Because no street and no public space is safe when people are not protected by their government or systems of power.”

Over two-thirds of the proposed investments will be spent on transit and safety-focused projects and programs and 60% of the projects would be built in “equity focus areas”.

Hanging over the measure is organized opposition from business groups and companies including Nike and Intel. According to The Oregonian, business interests say the measure would hurt the economy and fail at the ballot. They plan to invest $3 million into an opposition campaign to fight it.

So far Metro Council President Lynn Peterson has pushed back against these threats and is expected to formally adopt the measure and send it to the ballot.

Stay tuned.

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

Bond referendums depend somewhat on voter turnout: Overall low turnout means that mostly older people voted and they tend to vote more conservative and against raising taxes. High turnout is more dependent on younger people turning up to vote, while older voters are more likely to already have a habit of voting every November.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

That will be one big *NO* vote from me mainly because the wildly inefficient MAX project.

I hope this fails, not because we don’t need transit options but because I think we should demand better of these massive projects. Light rail is not a viable option for this alignment and this whole bond reeks of pork.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I found it really hard to find a link to the full package, so for anyone else looking:

Corridor Investment Package
Project Definition Sheets
Regionwide Programs

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I am shocked that Nike and Intel, who already have high-capacity transit serving their campuses, and who make sure to carve up Washington County like swiss cheese to avoid paying taxes, would oppose this.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Interestingly, Frisbee said the investments would create “safer” streets, not “safe” streets. She made the distinction in direct response to the recent protests around racist policies and police brutality. “I will talk about safer streets, not safe streets,” Frisbee said, “Because no street and no public space is safe when people are not protected by their government or systems of power.”

A point well-made. Perhaps in response this measure should be looking at investments (or at least money for studying) addressing broader notions of safety in the street—this statement coming as it does from the “government” and one of the “systems of power”.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

Fully funding the central city in motion plan and giving funding for albina vision would be such positive game changers for Portland! Looking forward to helping this pass.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I was all for this 9 months ago, but the affect of Covid-19 hitting us right at the end of a 40 year debt super cycle and a 10 year asset bubble might have consequences for the metro area most of us can’t even imagine. The longer the virus hangs on the worse things will be. With the ongoing collapse in brick and mortar retail and commercial real estate there may be parts of town that no longer need more transportation solutions. We may have to triage parts of town with too many empty buildings and not much transportation currently in place. With its proximity to the federal wildlife refuge perhaps Tualatin and Sherwood would be better as natural areas than habitation for humans. Let’s see how things shake out before we spend 7 billion in the wrong places.