Coalition of legislators scores $17 million to rebuild 14 blocks of Outer Powell

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
SE 136th Press Conference-7

State Rep. Shemia Fagan has stepped
up for safer streets in east Portland.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s not the $25 million that would have been wrapped inside last month’s ill-fated bipartisan transportation bill, but Powell Boulevard is lined up for a long-awaited improvement.

The state-run road is lined up to get $17 million to add sidewalks, pedestrian-friendly crossings and bike lane upgrades — which, as we reported last month, could come in the form of protected bike lanes. Another $3 million pledged by the City of Portland Friday would bring the project’s funding to $20 million for the blocks between SE 122nd and 136th avenues.

The rebuild “will break ground in 2018,” according to Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) a second-term legislator in a swing district who has been a dogged champion for better walking and biking in the area.

Joining Fagan in support for this funding was a chorus of other local legislators, including Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-East Portland), Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), Sen. Rod Monroe (D-East Portland), Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-NE Portland), Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley/East Portland), and Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland).

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Smile speeders! Photo radar bill headed to Governor’s desk for signing

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SW Barbur Blvd observations-14

Speeding on SW Barbur Blvd.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After many people had already begun their holiday weekend, the Portland Bureau of Transportation chalked up a major legislative victory.

HB 2621, which will allow PBOT to operate fixed photo radar cameras on Portland’s deadliest major streets, passed the Oregon Senate on Friday afternoon by a vote of 17-12. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Kate Brown for signing.

PBOT Director Leah Treat said via email today that she’s “very happy” the bill passed. “As the City is implementing Vision Zero,” she wrote, “automated speed enforcement should prove a critical tool in getting drivers to slow down.”

Friday’s vote capped a dizzying week of activity for the bill. On Monday morning it hadn’t even pass out of committee in the House.

The bill allows the City of Portland to install photo radar camera units (a pair of cameras, one for each direction) only on High Crash Corridors. Here’s how the bill defines them:

“urban high crash corridor” means a segment of highway that has an incidence rate of reported traffic crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries that is at least 25 percent higher than the rate for highways with the same speed limit or designated speed within the jurisdiction on average between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2016, and for which the governing body of the city makes a finding that speeding has had a negative impact on traffic safety.

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Democrats in state Senate join Republicans to kill neighborhood income diversity bill

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se division pedicab

Though the bill would have affected only condos and other owner-occupied homes, some rallied around it as a seemingly achievable way to preserve income diversity in bike-friendly areas like Southeast Division Street.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A bill that would have let Oregon cities require some condominiums in some new housing projects to be sold for below-market prices reportedly died in the state Senate on Wednesday.

One leading advocate for inclusionary zoning, as such policies are known, said late Wednesday that Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Southeast Portland) had “opted against a final caucus on the bill, claiming that the votes aren’t there.”

“We believe otherwise,” added the advocate, Jonathan Ostar of Portland-based OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, in an email to supporters of House Bill 2564. “It’s beyond frustrating that the caucus won’t get to discuss this last amendment.”

The bill’s backers include the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Upstream Public Health and other groups looking for ways to keep Portland’s decade-long housing shortage from making it impossible for most people to afford homes in Portland’s bikeable, walkable neighborhoods.

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Photo radar bill passes out of committee, moves toward floor votes – UPDATED

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high crash corridors

Map of Portland’s 10 High Crash Corridors.

It’s looking likelier that Oregon’s legislature will give Portland the right to gradually install 20 well-marked but unmanned anti-speeding cameras on its 10 deadliest streets.

House Bill 2621 was approved by the Joint Ways and Means committee in a nearly party-line vote Monday afternoon, sending the bill to the House and Senate floors.

Fourteen Democrats plus Salem Republican Jackie Winters voted for the bill to move ahead with a “do pass” recommendation. Nine Republicans voted against it.

Portland leaders including Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick have urged traffic safety activists to help them push for the bill. At the recent BikeLoudPDX safe streets rally, Hales told the crowd to “Put pressure on the legislature” to pass HB 2621, and said it would, “Let us use technology to make our streets safer.”

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New transportation bill in Salem includes $78 million to widen Portland-area freeways – UPDATED

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Legislators held a special hearing today
to hear testimony and learn about
the new proposal.

Despite growing consensus that the main effect of widening roads is not to reduce travel times but rather to lengthen car trips, Oregon’s overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature seems to be preparing to approve a bill that would spend around $78 million to add lanes and widen several freeways in the Portland metro area.

More widening projects are also planned around the state.

HB 2281, the 73-page bill being debated in Salem today, would raise $370 million through a mix of new vehicle registration fees and a two-cent gas tax increase. About $125 million of that would go to the Portland metro region (ODOT Region 1). The bill also includes 25 earmarked projects — most of which would widen freeways to “improve safety and provide congestion relief” and allow for “freight mobility improvements.”

There’s nothing in the new bill set aside specifically for bicycling or walking, though the multimodal Connect Oregon program would continue, presumably still funded by the state lottery.

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New bill in Salem would create legislative Vision Zero task force

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buczek walking

SW Barbur Boulevard, a state-run street.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Under a bill due for its first reading in Salem this afternoon, the state of Oregon would create a new task force to “examine strategies to reduce and eliminate traffic crashes … by a specific target date.”

House Bill 2736 would be “kind of the first step in the conversation” about a statewide Vision Zero policy, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Director Rob Sadowsky said in an interview Wednesday.

In addition to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the task force will include representatives of the Oregon Health Authority and State Police.

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Legislative update: Dead red passes, rear light bill might not, and more

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New safety signal at Couch and Grand-8-11

You can roll through, but only if it’s
safe and it doesn’t detect you.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As we get into the home stretch of the 2015 Oregon legislative session, I figured it’d be a good time to roundup all the action on the bills we’ve been tracking. This session wasn’t too groundbreaking when it comes to bicycle-specific bills; but there have been some interesting ideas and at least one bike bill of consequence is already headed to the Governor’s desk.

Here we go…


Senate Bill 533 – Allows bike and motorcycle riders to proceed through red signal under certain conditions
Ever come up to the red light that never changes? Now you will have the legal right to roll through it thanks to SB 533, which passed a vote in the House yesterday. This bill (here’s our post on it) was proposed by motorcycle advocates and initially did not apply to bicycle riders. It was only after some lobbying action by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that “bicyclist” was added.

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Noted lawyer Ray Thomas opposes bill that would mandate rear bike lights

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Ray Thomas.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

When Oregon House Representative John Davis proposed making reflective clothing mandatory while bicycling, many people understandably scoffed at the idea. Thankfully, he too apparently realized the absurdity of government intervention into apparel choices and quickly gutted his bill and stuffed it with something else.

Davis’ clothing idea quickly morphed into a bill (HB 3255) that would mandate rear lights on all bicycles (current law calls for only a rear reflector). That seemed like a good idea to me at first glance; but after hearing Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas‘ opposition to it, I’ve changed my mind.

Thomas called me yesterday to say he was actively working to stop the bill. He has several significant concerns about how the new equipment requirement would impact bicycle riders in Oregon.

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Oregon Senate votes (yet again) to let cabbies use hand-held phones while driving

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Ride along in a Radio Cab-1

Should they be allowed to use phones while driving?
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

For the second legislative session in a row, the Oregon Senate has voted in favor of a bill that would allow taxicab operators to use hand-held cell phones while driving.

Oregon’s existing cell phone law (ORS 811.507) permits the use of hands-free mobile devices while driving, but taxi operators want to be added to the list of exceptions for hand-held phone use that already includes police officers, public safety workers, farm equipment operators, transit workers, public utility workers, tow truck operators, HAM radio operators, and others.

Senate Bill 167 passed by a vote of 18-12 last month (all 12 “no” votes were from Democrats). A similar bill passed the Senate in 2013, but failed to get a vote in the House.

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Possible cuts to Amtrak service raise stakes of Salem’s transportation limbo

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Bikes on Amtrak

The Cascades line is arguably the bike-friendliest
in the country.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

One of the country’s most-ridden Amtrak lines could have its southern tail chopped off unless Oregon legislators find another $5 million to keep it whole.

The state-sponsored Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene and Portland, with stops in Albany, Salem, Woodburn and Oregon City, is likely to be eliminated unless the state is willing to cover the one-third of the line’s operating costs, $28 million annually, that aren’t covered by ticket revenue.

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Oregon House likely to pass bill to preserve income-diverse neighborhoods

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SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen

SE Division Street: rapid infill but rapid price hikes.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon seems to be nearing a series of party-line votes that would remove its statewide ban on inclusionary zoning.

IZ, as it’s sometimes known, is a type of zoning used in many U.S. cities that requires developers in certain areas to offer some housing units at below-market prices, usually to people with middle or low incomes.

House Bill 2564 is scheduled to hit the state House floor today, personally carried by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-North Portland). After a party-line committee vote last week, a leading backer predicted Monday that the bill will pass the state House on another party-line vote, with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed.

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