Lane County Democrat Lee Beyer is poised to be the next member of the Oregon Transportation Commission. Governor Kate Brown made the announcement as part of a slate of nominations made public on August 31st. If confirmed, Beyer would replace Commissioner Alando Simpson, whose term expires at the end of this year.
The five-member OTC is the most powerful transportation decision-making body in the state of Oregon. They are in charge of the Oregon Department of Transportation and tell the agency how to implement their policies and which projects to fund.
Senator Beyer, 74, lives in Springfield (near Eugene), has been a member of the Oregon Legislature since 2011 and has been involved in politics for nearly four decades. Sen. Beyer has also been a key figure in transportation policy at the state capitol. As a co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation he was a leading proponent of House Bill 2017, a major transportation funding package. Beyer is also a co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee on the Interstate 5 Bridge.
In 2013, Beyer voted in favor of funding for the ill-fated Columbia River Crossing and is an ardent supporter of its successor, the I-5 Bridge Replacement Program.
Also in 2013, Beyer said taxicab drivers should have the same exception to the cell phone law as police officers do. When bike advocates sought an expansion of bicycle funding on the 50th anniversary of the Bicycle Bill in 2021, Beyer said there just wasn’t enough money to do it. “It is not that the state is not supportive of bike paths,” Beyer said. “We would like to do more. Our primary responsibility however, is maintaining the freight and intercity traffic routes.”
Late last year, Willamette Week noted that Beyer was the sole Democrat to donate to the gubernatorial campaign of Betsy Johnson, a former state senator running as an independent. “I think she could make a good governor,” Beyer told Willamette Week.
Beyer’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate Rules Committee, but a date for that meeting hasn’t been finalized.
Transportation advocates seem poised to mobilize against the decision. Portland resident and Chair of Bike Loud PDX Kiel Johnson, was seen riding around Saturday’s Bike Town Hall event with “Reject Lee Beyer for OTC” scrawled across a sign attached to the rear of his pedicab.