State releases dates and cities for 2025 transportation package ‘Conversations Tour’

Show up! Or someone will speak for you. (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature will have vast ramifications for transportation. Lawmakers are expected to hammer out a deal that will allocate billions to infrastructure programs and projects. The last time this process occurred, in 2017, the governor signed over $5.3 billion to the cause.

Many capitol insiders and professional advocates have been preparing for the session for months already. Priorities are being laid out and the lobbying has begun. But most regular folks have plenty of other things to worry about. If you’ve been putting off doing your homework for the 2025 session, it’s time to circle an important date on your calendar: June 4th.

That’s the opening day for what the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation (JCT) is calling their State Transportation Conversations Across Rural and Urban Communities for the 2025 Package Tour (seriously). “This is the beginning of the process of outreach for community connections and input for the 2025 package,” read an email sent to committee members Friday.

This time around already looks better than how former Oregon Governor Kate Brown went about gathering input prior to the 2017 session. Brown put together a Governor’s Transportation Vision Panel that toured the state. While lawmakers touted the meetings as listening sessions that reflected the voice of the people, that’s not what happened. I don’t recall any events that were well-publicized and open to the public and the media. Instead, I recall invite-only guest lists and a limited scope of feedback that seemed assured to tell the governor and lawmakers exactly what they wanted to hear.

Unsurprisingly, the result of that panel and the legislative session that decided how to spend $5.3 billion of our tax dollars was a bill that created a tax on new bicycle purchases and was tilted heavily toward expensive highway projects and freeway expansions. While touted as a groundbreaking bill because it created dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School and public transit service, it’s prioritization on expensive megaprojects and over-reliance on a (now mothballed) tolling system to pay for them has put ODOT in a severe fiscal crisis.

This time around, thanks in large part to Portland-area House Representative (and JCT member) Khanh Pham, the process should be different. How much so remains to be seen.

For now, here’s what we know so far about the 2025 Package Tour:

The locations and dates:

  • Portland – June 4, 5:00 to 7:00 pm at PCC Cascade (Moriarty Auditorium, 5518 N Albina Ave)
  • Tillamook – June 18
  • Albany – July 16
  • Eugene – July 17
  • Coos Bay – August 7
  • Medford – August 8
  • Ontario – August 28
  • Hermiston – August 29
  • Bend – September 12
  • The Dalles – September 13
  • Salem – September 25*
  • Happy Valley – September 26
  • Hillsboro- September 27

*Note that the Salem date will be a virtual hearing in order to provide a place for folks to testify who were unable to attend other events.

According to the JCT, each stop will include roundtable discussions with local officials, site tours, and a public comment period. As for the site tours, Oregon Department of Transportation staff will “work with local communities” to identify 2-3 locations that, “demonstrate the type of ongoing maintenance needs that the local community may want to share with the legislators at each meeting location.”

The goals (according to the JCT)

  • Build public understanding of transportation funding challenges and potential funding tools to address those challenges
  • Build legislative understanding of statewide transportation needs and shared priorities
  • Build local, regional, statewide support and a sense of urgency for a transportation funding package focused on maintenance, operations, and safety
  • Gather input from the public and community leaders about preferred methods for addressing the transportation funding challenge

Local nonprofit No More Freeways is already urging folks to attend, writing in a recent email that the June 4th stop in Portland will be, “a critical opportunity to demand investment in transit, street safety and maintenance over spending billions of dollars in freeway expansion.”

Details about time and location have not been released. Stay tuned. In the meantime, your homework is to watch our interview about transportation funding with Cassie Wilson and/or read her excellent report.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Fred
Fred
1 month ago

It’s already obvious what needs to be done: The legislature needs to replace the gasoline tax with a per-mile charge on all vehicles (even bikes could pay a small fee – there, I said it), on a sliding scale by weight. Each vehicle pays for how much it uses the system and how much it impacts the system. Oh – do you use studded tires in the winter? Your rate will be doubled for the time you have them on your car, to account for all the damage you are doing to the roads.

That’s it, really. You’re welcome.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

The legislature needs to replace the gasoline tax with a per-mile charge on all vehicles (even bikes could pay a small fee – there, I said it), on a sliding scale by weight.

I kind of agree with you in theory, at least if we want to take the maximalist approach to the people using the service should be the ones paying for it, but practically speaking the amount of wear and tear a cyclist puts on a road is de minimis compared to the 1,000+ lb automobiles using that same road. I think you’d quickly find that the administrative overhead in collecting a use fee on cyclists would be orders of magnitude more than what that fee would be in an equitable fee structure. Indeed, there’s already an excise tax on new bicycles sold in the state, which probably more than pays for cyclists’ share of the state’s bicycle infrastructure O&M.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

You are right about the minuscule impact of bikes on the road, but our bike infrastructure – esp the so-called protected lanes – do cost money to build and they are very visible. So I would want cyclists to pay a fee of some kind just to take the argument off the table that cyclists are freeloaders who don’t pay their fair share.

When in future René González asks Director Williams if drivers are paying for bike lanes, she can reply, No, they are not – bikes are paying their own way.

BB
BB
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I pay a serious amount of money in property tax, state income tax, arts tax, etc.
You think I should pay extra to ride a bicycle in the city?
Are you nuts?
No thanks, feel free to send extra check if you want for your fair share.
I pay mine already. The city should send me a check for the 5000 miles a year I ride in the city.
I save them money.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  BB

I save them money.

Only to the extent that your property, income, and arts taxes pay for roads. Which is to say, not much.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Watts is correct here, BB. The whole reason the JCT is doing this tour is to build support for new ideas to fund transportation. If your taxes were already funding it, they wouldn’t need to do this outreach work.

Clearly there is not enough funding for the transportation people want currently.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

The reason the cycling infrastructure needs to be built is because of cars though. We don’t charge people to walk on sidewalks because the only reason they exist is because people can’t safely walk in the road. We don’t charge people who live behind a sound wall because it was built to mitigate the harm of I-5 being in a city. The list goes on. It’s all a workaround in service of automobile use. Cycling infrastructure is needed to support drivers, period. I’m not paying one dime for it (except insomuch as I do have a car unfortunately), and also as it turns out my bikes don’t have odometers. So collecting any fee on that is just nonsense.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Sidewalks have been features on urban streets since at least Roman times, and we’ve been building infrastructure for bikes since bikes were invented. I’m not saying that the widespread adoption of cars hasn’t changed our urban landscape, obviously it has, significantly, but many of the things you attribute to cars predate them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidewalk
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_infrastructure

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

You’re being pedantic. The reason sidewalks and bike infrastructure are *required* for safe use now is because of the automobile. This is a new thing. Because the automobile makes those things necessary, automobile users are who should pay for it. Cars aren’t nature, they’re not something humans should be expected to pay for if they’re not using them.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

You make a very interesting point, John V, that cars *necessitate* bike infrastructure. I suppose we could make that argument, especially on faster arterials where bikes need the extra space.

But the argument works the other way, too. Out here in the boonies of SW Portland, where we have hardly any bike infra, I cycle very happily on many streets with faster traffic (like Vermont). So again drivers could argue that bike infra isn’t really needed and no one should pay for it. But where does that get us?

I just think it would be politically smart for cyclists to pony up something. The “I’m not paying one dime” attitude will just perpetuate the status quo, which I think is unacceptable.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

I suppose in a utopia without cars, we would still need some rudimentary path for bikes to ride on. Maybe even paved would be nice. It would be cheap and last a hundred years or more, so the cost would round to nearly zero. But it would be there. So extending that to your example where you’re using the road (because it’s your only option), you may be expected to be responsible for your share of a tiny, light weight path that lasts a hundred years. I.e., probably less than the bicycle surcharge.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

How would you collect a per mile tax on cyclists?

Would my 6 year old have to pay when he rides to school? How would he be tracked?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Sidewalks were also necessary when horse drawn wheeled vehicles were common, so while I understand and generally accept your point (cars necessitate infrastructure), this is not new. Horses required a fair bit of infrastructure too.

But all of this is irrelevant to your more fundamental argument about who should pay for street construction and upkeep. Personally I don’t care. Enough of the population directly uses the streets that I consider them part of our general infrastructure (certainly more than schools or libraries or even parks). If a VMT tax proves politically workable, which I think it generally will if collection issues can be resolved, that’s fine with me. If we choose some other mechanism, that would be ok too.

I think that rather than debate the endless (and ultimately pointless) moral questions of who owes what, the interesting questions pivot on practicality: how much do we really need, and where can we get that money in a politically palatable manner? That family of questions opens an entire realm of avenues for discussing transit, driving, and all the other stuff we like to talk about.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah I agree, it shouldn’t come from some specific tax. VMT and/or gas maybe, because it might encourage people to drive less. But otherwise it should probably come from general taxes. My gripe is with the asinine idea that cyclists (or pedestrians) should pay anything specifically for walking or cycling. That part makes no sense.

Rufio
Rufio
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Watts, this comment really resonates with me. Our statewide transportation system is some hundreds of billions behind in backlogged maintenance. It’s quite clear we’ve built a system and did not design the revenue mechanisms to maintain it. It seems we should be highlighting that if this is the transportation system we want (and I recognize that’s a very big if), let’s have an honest conversation about how much that costs to build AND maintain. It’s certainly nowhere near what the current cost of driving is for our fellow citizens.

Perhaps increased revenue will come from higher registration fees. Perhaps it is a higher gas tax. Perhaps it’s a VMT fee. Perhaps it’s a delivery fee. Likely it’s a mixture of all of the above. Whatever that concoction, if we’re honest with ourselves about the true costs of the transportation system we’ve built (which we usually aren’t), the price to consumers will be pretty shocking. However, that’s the conversation we need to be having at these statewide events and into the legislative session.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 month ago

The “We Pretend to Listen; We Pretend to Care.” tour dates have been released! This should be the biggest wonkcore and bureau-trance festival of the year. Coachella for commuters!