With less than one week left in the 2021 Oregon legislative session there’s one big question Portlanders still don’t have an answer: Will lawmakers choose to spend $80 million to kickstart a long-awaited process that will transfer jurisdiction of 82nd Avenue from the State of Oregon to the City of Portland?
According to Representative Khanh Pham’s Chief of Staff Robin Ye, it could actually happen. Rep Pham was an advocate for 82nd Avenue long before being elected to the House in 2020 and has continued her leadership on the issue from Salem.
Asked for an update on the $80 million request first made back in May, Ye told us via email on Thursday that, “Last we heard it was ‘positive’ about 82nd Avenue and funding will be appropriated for the safety improvements.”
Since the request isn’t part of a legislative bill, it’s impossible for the public to closely track its progress. The money would come from nearly $800 million in federal rescue plan dollars given out by the Biden Administration.
This is a big issue because 82nd Avenue is in urgent need of updates and infrastructure changes that the Oregon Department of Transportation has so far proven incapable of delivering. ODOT manages it like a freeway, yet everyone around the table knows PBOT is much more fit to the task of making it safer and easier to use as the neighborhood collector street it has evolved into — especially for walkers, bikers, and other types of non-drivers.
Following two deaths in April, pressure mounted for the state to make a jurisdictional transfer to the city. This is something both ODOT and PBOT have long wanted, but neither side wanted to foot the $185 million in expenses it would take to bring the road up to a condition Portland felt comfortable with.
That all changed earlier this month when both agencies entered into a transfer agreement. That entire process hinges on whether or not members of the legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee decide to allocate that $80 million that would set everything in motion.
Because this is a late-session budget negotiation and this request isn’t part of an official bill, there’s no way for the public to track its progress. Advocates from Oregon Walks and other groups have urged members to send messages to lawmakers urging approval of the funding.
“We believe this will ultimately be fitted in the budget reconciliation bill that will conclude the session,” said Ye with Rep. Pham’s office, “We are optimistic and hopeful we’ll receive the full $80 million.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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