Hwy 217 Auxiliary Lanes Project
The speculations are over and now the debates can begin.
On Wednesday night a bipartisan committee of state legislators released the first draft of the transportation funding package. The 298-page House Bill 2017 aims to raise $8.2 billion over the next 10 years from a combination of increases to existing taxes and fees, and a few new ones.
The bill tilts heavily toward major new investments in roads and highways that will make driving more convenient. Local bus services get a boost, while investment in light rail is explicitly prohibited. Biking and walking see an amount of dedicated investment that’s unprecedented compared to past packages; but is still embarrassingly small relative to other priorities.
The broad outlines of the bill are similar to what has been discussed during recent meetings of the 14-member Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee. But there are several noteworthy new details to discuss.
By now you’ve probably heard whispers and/or seen the headlines about the three freeway widening projects in the Portland region that are a top priority of lawmakers statewide. The goal of the projects is to improve driving conditions for motor vehicle users on Interstate 217 south of Beaverton, I-5 adjacent to the Rose Quarter, and I-205 south of Oregon City.
These three projects represent an estimated cost of $1,000,000,000 — that’s a billion with a “b”. Lawmakers won’t be able to fully fund them in their forthcoming transportation package, but it’s expected they’ll get a significant jumpstart.
Because freeway expansions tend to be very controversial in our region (with good reason), these projects have flown under-the-radar of most people (except those working to get them funded). Another reason there hasn’t been a robust public debate about these projects is that — even though they’ve been listed in various plans (like Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan) for many years — they’ve been unfunded and relegated to “wish lists”. But now that real money is on the table, the tone around these projects has quickly gotten a lot more serious. Everyone who cares about the future of transportation in our region should learn more about them.
Like I mentioned above, these three projects alone are estimated to cost about $1 billion. Now that I have your attention, here’s what I’ve found out about each one…
This is a guest post from former news editor Michael Andersen.
The top executive of Portland’s mass transit agency said this week that the Portland region has four top transportation priorities, and three of them are to expand capacity of urban freeways.