“All of these accommodations to special user groups belie the fact that the bridge was designed to move traffic and freight.”
— Betsy Johnson, candidate for governor
One of the best ideas for improving transportation in Oregon is glaringly absent from the state’s transportation funding package: Better passenger and freight rail lines between Portland and Eugene.
At one of four hearings on House Bill 2017-3 held at the State Capitol this week, representatives from the Association of Oregon and Rail Transit Advocates took the opportunity to remind lawmakers about this fact.
While the package being debated includes over $900 million in earmarks for highway expansions in the name of “congestion relief,” advocates with AORTA feel like the bill will cause Oregon to fall even further behind our west coast neighbors.
“Go big or go home,” is how AORTA rep Dan McFarling began his testimony in front of the Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee on Monday. “Rail programs in Washington and California are going big. We are treading water.”
By the end of this month Oregonians will have their first look at what state lawmakers and interest groups have cooked up for a transportation package.
I’ve followed the progress and have noticed several key themes worthy of your attention. Here’s my best take on what’s going on.
But first, let’s start with an overview of how the package is being developed:
How the sausage is being made
The package is being drafted by the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization — a 14-member body with eight Democrats and six Republicans that represent districts throughout Oregon. They’ve met five times since February 1st. Their meetings are usually less than 30 minutes long because the real work is being done in four work groups. These groups have been assigned to focus on specific topics. Here are the names of the groups and the committee members assigned to each of them:
Congestion Work Group:
– Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas)
– Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland)
– Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro)
– Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose)
Public Transit/Bike/Ped/Safety Work Group:
– Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield)
– Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland)
– Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie)
to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.
(Map by Oregon State Parks & Rec)
The proposed Salmonberry Trail, a path that would connect Washington County to the Pacific coast through the forest along a defunct rail line, has an official name and is about to get a full-time executive director.
Previously referred to as the “Salmonberry Corridor,” the trail also has an 11-member decision-making body with formal power to start raising the unknown millions that’d be required for the 86-mile proposal.
The Salmonberry Coalition will celebrate those milestones at its annual meeting next month. The public event is 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 9, at Stub Stewart State Park.