Oregon Gov. Brown Presses Legislature to Increase Transportation Project Funding

AASHTO Journal, 24 April 2015

Gov. Kate Brown is asking the Oregon Legislative Assembly to send her a measure that would boost the state’s investment in transportation infrastructure.

“A safe and efficient transportation system is essential to getting goods to market, workers to their jobs, and creates a desirable quality of life that attracts innovative people to our state,” Brown said in her April 17 State of the State address.

“And ultimately, when we look at our transportation system, we must be mindful of how Oregonians choose to get around. No matter how we do – whether we walk to school, drive to work, catch a train for a family visit, or bike to the gym – the system we travel on needs to get us there safely.”

Brown, who had been in office about two months since John Kitzhaber resigned as governor on Feb. 18, said that “looking ahead, the resources needed to operate, preserve, and make much-needed improvements are non-existent.”

She also said: “We need to invest in passenger rail, freight rail, bicycle routes and other transportation alternatives.”

Oregon news agencies report that getting a transportation financing package through the legislature will require majority Democrats to renegotiate a low-carbon fuels measure that Republicans did not want, and which Brown signed into law in March.

Some also note that Brown’s funding request comes as neighboring Idaho has acted to increase its motor fuel user charges for highway investments, and as Washington state lawmakers are considering a hike in fuel fees.

In her speech, Brown gave several examples of how roadway congestion threatens the quality of life for residents, while making it tough for Oregon businesses to ship their goods. She said one company that air freights its shipments has sometimes diverted its trucks to Oakland, Calif., instead of nearby Portland, Ore., “due to severe congestion and delays.”

Urging the public to press state lawmakers for action, Brown said: “So this is my wake-up call. Now is the time for the Legislature to step up and make these investments. Passing a transportation package is among my highest priorities. It will not be easy, but we cannot shy away from this important work. Let your legislators know how crucial this is.”

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