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Metro Council votes to send $5 billion transportation investment package to voters

Posted by on July 17th, 2020 at 11:00 am

The package includes major updates to big east Portland arterials like this one.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

In what’s being hailed as an unprecedented moment for regional transportation reform, Metro Council voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt the Get Moving 2020 plan and send it to voters in November.

Centered around 17 “investment corridors,” the plan could pump nearly $8 billion into regional transportation infrastructure and programs over the next 20 years. If approved, the measure would start generating revenue in 2022 with a 0.75% payroll tax paid by employers of businesses with over 25 employees. (UPDATE: A last-minute amendment exempts all state and local government agencies.) Metro’s latest pitch has framed the proposal as a massive jobs package that will put over 37,500 people to work with high-paying construction and consulting jobs.

Metro spent over 18 months negotiating the details of this package. While it’s not perfect and has received very mixed reviews from transportation reform activists, the overall feeling seems to be that the myriad benefits of the “good” projects and programs far outweigh the few “bad” projects that made the cut.

Some of the good includes:

  • $700 million for better bikeways, off-street path connection, bus rapid transit and much more on Tualatin-Valley Highway.
  • $65 million to kickstart Albina Vision Trust’s plans (that are totally separate from ODOT’s I-5 Rose Quarter project).
  • $540 million to makeover 82nd Avenue between Highway 224 and NE Airport Way that will lead to jurisdictional transfer from ODOT (bad) to PBOT (good).
  • $9 million per year for free bus and MAX passes to all high school-aged youth in the greater Portland area.
  • $11.5 million per year for “Community Stability” which includes affordable housing, main street upgrades, and anti-displacement strategies.

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Then there’s the $150 million for the “Clackamas to Columbia” corridor that will build new roads for more driving capacity in Gresham, a new overpass on Airport Way, and $975 million for a SW Corridor MAX light rail project that’s still too car-centric and has uncertain ROI.

Beyond the projects, one big takeaway from how this proposal came together is who put it together. “With this measure we took that mold which we have been using for the last 70 to 80 years and we just broke it,” Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said during her testimony yesterday. “And in its place we relied on public engagement and a transparent process to create a measure based on the shared values and needs of this entire region.”

The Getting There Together coalition deserves high praise for their work in bending the proposal away from traditional driving and highway-centric projects and toward basic safety (like street lighting, better bike lanes and sidewalks) and major transit upgrades.

And Metro was intentional to make sure the investments went in places that will benefit low-income and people of color. 68% of the region’s people of color live in the areas targeted for funding and new infrastructure. Transit investments — including 85% of new transit signal priority projects and 59% of new bus lanes — are strongly weighted toward areas where people of color live.

For veteran environmental and social justice advocate Vivian Satterfield of Verde NW (a member of the Getting There Together Coalition), these investments are exactly what residents of northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood have been clamoring for. During testimony at yesterday’s public hearing she said, “For low-income families and people of color living, working, learning and playing in this region, we’ve always talked about our frustrations and needs from our transportation systems… And the reality of cycling through cheap junk cars on Craigslist just to have a way to get to daily activities because our current system doesn’t get people to the places they need to go in a time they have to travel.”

In such a dark news cycle, it was heartening to see optimism and gratitude from many people like Satterfield yesterday. And the united front from Metro Council who showed no fear of threats from big business interests planning to oppose the measure was also a welcome sight.

Will it pass? Given the crowded ballot and hefty opposition, it could be very close. But these are not normal times and it’s hard to predict anything. 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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rick
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rick

Bus rapid transit and a protected path on the south side of ODOT’s Highway 8, TV Highway, would be fantastic, but what will it mean if Washington County doesn’t change their land-use? That stroad has so many drive-throughs and car dealerships. I hope the railroad stays.

Bike Guy
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Bike Guy

Metro is out of control.

Lowell
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Lowell

Their insistence on the overpass at Airport Way is so bewildering to me. The minor bottleneck for car traffic there is nothing compared to the bottleneck at their actual destination: the Arrivals and Departures hubs at the airport. All this will do is get cars to join the long lines snaking from Arrivals and Departures a little bit faster.

Meanwhile, getting to the airport without a car is an enormous pain if you don’t happen to live near a Red Line stop. Why why why are there no bus routes to the airport?

todd/boulanger
Guest

With Biketown’s new rules change – allowing youth access to bikeshare – I hope this METRO package once approved by voters tweaks the “$9 million per year for free bus and MAX passes to all high school-aged youth” to also include youth access to “bike transit” aged 16 and older.

[Our Biki bikeshare service in Honolulu has always allowed youth aged 16 & 17 to be members – with parental approval – and they have been as good of customers as adults, I hope Biketown has a similar experience.] https://gobiki.org

Mark
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Mark

One huge item not mentioned in the article…government agencies/workers don’t have to pay the tax. Only private companies/employees. I consider that a significant hurdle

Dead Salmon
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Dead Salmon

Let’s check their claim about 37,500 “high-paying” jobs. Per the above numbers, $8,000,000,000 over 20 years comes out to $400,000,000 per year. If you divide that by the 37,500 “high-paying” jobs, you get $10,666.67 per job per year. And the real number would be less since a chunk of the money will go toward materials, permits, studies, possibly land purchases,etc. Wonder where the materials they will buy are produced? How about the consultants and construction companies – will those be local firms?

Citylover
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Citylover

I love Lynn Peterson. I’ve worked in urban planning and bike and walking advocacy for 20 years and always vote YES on the Metro bonds…not this year. Education, schools (especially PPS) desperately needs the money. This strikes me as tonedeaf this year and I’ll be voting NO. Also, I don’t support the SW LRT although in another year I would vote yes regardless.

Joseph E
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Joseph E

Thank you for reporting on this, Jonathan. I hope you will have time to look closely at the details of this measure. Would it be possible to write articles about the bus lanes and other bus improvements that would be funded by this measure? It would be great to talk about each of the bike-related improvements as well.

AndyK
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AndyK

Let’s go!!

Jim Labbe
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Jim Labbe

The referring resolution includes language that calls for utilizing “participatory budgeting principles for resource allocation for the anti-displacement program.” Not sure what “participatory budgeting principles” means. It sounds a little fishy. Either you share real power over public real money to tap the community’s expertise and increase transparency and accountability or you don’t. Still this is could be an important, small step toward democratizing and humanizing transportation investments in our region. Kudos to the Getting Their Together Coalition for the hard work in vastly improving this proposal for all people and the planet and for specifically advocating for PB.