The Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization used its first two meetings of the 2017 Legislative Session to form four subcommittees and agree to rules and principles that will guide its effort to create a transportation package that can attract broad support inside and outside the Capitol.
Efforts to pass a transportation bill failed in the 2015 Legislature, and some of the same challenges remain. Some estimates place the annual cost of repairing deteriorating infrastructure while addressing congestion as high as $5 billion above what the state already spends. Committee Co-Chair Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) acknowledged in the first 2017 committee hearing that "the amount of money that the transportation professionals say is needed to fix the problem totally is ... more than we can afford to spend. Somewhere between that number and nothing hopefully is where we will land."
Last year, the committee toured the state identifying transportation needs and gauging citizens' willingness to pay for those projects. Unsurprisingly, they found more needs than possibly could be met. But, they also found that Oregonians want a big package ... if it's the right package of projects financed the right way. Of course, not everyone agrees on which projects and which funding methods are the right ones. The committee's challenge will be to find the right combination.
The committee chose to divide the task into parts assigned to four subcommittees, each working on specific types of transportation. The four subcommittees and their members are:
Maintenance, Preservation, and Seismic: Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), Chair; Senator Fred Girod (R-Stayton); Representative John Lively (D-Springfield); and Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem).
Congestion: Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), Chair; Representative Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland); Representative Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro); and Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose).
Transit, Bike/Pedestrian, Safe Routes, and Safety: Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Chair; Senator Rod Monroe (D-Portland); and Senator Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland).
Intermodal: Representative Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay), Chair; Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany); and Representative Greg Smith (R-Heppner).
The subcommittees agreed to achieve consensus on concepts carried forward to the Joint Committee. Recommendations are due by March 15.
Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) and the Oregon Business Association (OBA) are part of a broad coalition that supports the effort to pass a transportation package that will address congestion, improve freight mobility, and make communities safer, healthier and more livable. You can learn more about the coalition and follow efforts to develop a plan at http://gooregon.org/.