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May-27-2009 19:15printcomments

Oregon House Passes Transportation Bill

Bill Will Create 4,600 Jobs Annually and Reduce Congestion at Key Bottlenecks

Oregon's often rain soaked roads. photo by Bonnie King
Funding will mean improvements on Oregon's often rain soaked roads. photo by Bonnie King

(SALEM, Ore.) - The Oregon House on Wednesday passed HB 2001 – the Jobs and Transportation Act – paving the way for thousands of new construction jobs to reduce congestion, improve safety, build new multi-modal projects across the state and vastly improve freight mobility. The final vote on the House floor was 38-22.

House Speaker Dave Hunt said the project would create 4,600 jobs that would be sustained for a decade and bring long term benefits for communities across Oregon. The bill was crafted by a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators based on legislation proposed by Governor Ted Kulongoski in his recommended budget. The package raises $300 million annually for transportation projects.

“This will go down as one of the top accomplishments of the 2009 legislative session. Not only is it the largest transportation package ever passed in Oregon, but it is the exact right time for our state to use its resources to get Oregonians back to work,” said Hunt.

“While our state has taken some shots from the global recession, the work of both chambers and both parties shows that we can come together and move Oregon forward despite these dire economic circumstances.”

Carried by State Rep. Terry Beyer (D-Springfield) and Rep. Vicki Berger (R-Salem), the bill provides cities and counties with 50% of the $300 million raised. It sets aside an additional $100 million for rail, marine, air, transit and train projects under the Connect Oregon III program. And it uses $70 million annually to bond $1 billion worth of road projects to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility.

“The need to address our faltering economy, come to the aid of Oregon’s aging and neglected infrastructure and begin the transition to an improved multimodal transportation system that will serve us well into the future was so important we stuck to our task; Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate members. We have come up with a plan that will get people to work and rebuild our systems of moving people and freight,” said Beyer, chair of the House Transportation Committee. “It’s been well worth the effort.”

The bill is funded by increasing the car registration fee by $16 a year, increasing the title fee by $22, increasing the cost of replacement and vanity plates and increasing the gas tax by six cents in January, 2011 or after two straight quarters of economic growth.

Beyer and Berger called House Bill 2001 the “Transportation Odyssey,” referring to the long months of negotiations that ended with bipartisan passage in the House.

“This is a bill we need now,” said Berger. “HB 2001 puts Oregonians to work immediately; work using bricks, boards, cement and asphalt to build roads, trails, railroads, runways, port facilities and even rest areas. Those are the basic building blocks for our better economic future."

While there has been great debate about the environmental aspects of the bill and the fact that it identified specific projects, the bill contains much needed environmental protections, an additional $3 million in bike-ped funding, plus the ability to release $24 million annually in federal flex funds that can now be used for bike-ped and other multi modal projects. It also funds three of the top projects of statewide significance as identified by the Oregon department of Transportation – the Highway 62 project in Medford, the Newberg-Dundee bypass and the Sunrise Corridor.

State Rep Jules Bailey said while not perfect, the bill takes much needed steps forward in improving the state’s ability to address key environmental standards. Current provisions require a 1% investment from the Highway Trust Fund for bike-ped projects. Under HB 2001, an additional $5.6 million will be added to the current level of bike-ped funding. Currently, ODOT funds $4.5 million annually in bike-ped projects, as well as additional funding for local bike-ped projects from cities and counties.

Among the environmental provisions of the bill are:

* The creation of an Urban Trails Fund

* Codification of environmental rules drafted under OTIA III project

* Increased funding for transit under companion bill SB 334 (passed just before HB 2001 on a 32-38 vote),

* Increased use of federal flex funds,

* Increased dollars for elderly and disabled transit,

* A least cost planning model’

* Requiring greenhouse gas emissions planning in the Metro region,

* Incentives for use of electric vehicles and

* Establishment of pilot projects for congestion pricing and “pay as you drive” insurance.

As equally as important as the congestion reduction projects is the $100 million for Connect Oregon III, projects for rail, ports, transit and other forms of multi-modal transportation.

“With passage of this bill we make significant progress on setting Oregon on a path that will greatly improve our ability to manage our transportation system in an environmentally friendly way,” said Rep. Bailey (D-Portland).

“We continue to make good progress. We continue to move forward. We continue to be leaders in the nation in our efforts to reduce congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.”

Cities and counties will split approximately $140 million annually to maintain roads and fund additional multi-modal projects in local communities. State Rep. Cliff Benz (R-Ontario), said those dollars will put people back to work and fund much needed improvements in his districts.

“In rural counties, the need for this is clear,” said Benz.

Speaker Hunt agreed: “The need for this is clear all over Oregon,” said Hunt. “We will reduce congestion and pollution. We will get parents home faster to their families. We will move freight more efficiently and open up access to industrial parks in several major cities. And we will put Oregonians back to work building long term projects that will serve us for decades. This is a bill that shows we can come together to solve Oregon’s most pressing problems.”

Source: Oregon Legislature

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Troy September 4, 2009 5:51 pm (Pacific time)

Funny how the registration fees on trucks, more than doubled and monthly fees did the same. Nobody seems to mention that.Looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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