June 18, 2024

Oregon lawmakers will seek community feedback as they plan a transportation package

Oregon state officials are looking for new ways to fund transportation projects and maintenance as fuel tax revenues decline. An Oregon Department of Transportation road grader works on clearing Oregon 11 between Pendleton to the Washington state border. Oregon Department of Transportation photo
June 2, 2024

Oregon lawmakers will seek community feedback as they plan a transportation package

By Ben Botkin, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon lawmakers are mapping out a transportation package for the 2025 legislative session to address the state’s long-term needs, from sustainable funding to new projects so Oregonians can safely travel throughout the state. 

As an initial step, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is planning a dozen meetings from June to September in communities throughout Oregon to get input about improving the state’s transportation system with stable funding to complete major projects and maintain what’s already in place.

Attend a meeting
Transportation meetings will be held across the state, with times and locations announced at a later date.
Downtown Portland, Tuesday, June 4
Tillamook, Tuesday, June 18
Albany, Tuesday, July 16
Eugene, Wednesday, July 17
Coos Bay, Wednesday, Aug. 7
Medford, Thursday, Aug. 8
Ontario, Wednesday, Aug. 28
Hermiston, Thursday Aug. 29
Bend, Thursday, Sept. 12
The Dalles, Friday, Sept. 13
Happy Valley, Thursday, Sept. 26
Hillsboro, Friday, Sept. 27

State officials say Oregon struggles to maintain the system of roads, highways and bridges with the available funding. Last December, Gov. Tina Kotek asked the state lawmakers to allocate another $19 million to the Oregon Department of Transportation for winter maintenance. Lawmakers provided the one-time funding, but it’s not a permanent answer for long-term needs.

At the meetings, committee members will hear from local officials and the public about the problems they face as they navigate the state’s roads and highways. Lawmakers will use that feedback to put together a transportation package for the 2025 legislative session that will give the Oregon Department of Transportation a pathway to complete major highway projects and maintain what’s already in place, officials said in a release. 

“We’re talking about clearing snow off highways, filling potholes, making sure our bridges don’t collapse and reducing traffic jams,” Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale and the joint committee’s co-chair, said in a statement. “Our transportation systems impact the lives of Oregonians in every corner of our state and they need to be safe and efficient for years to come.”

Gov. Tina Kotek, Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Corvallis, and House Speaker Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, have urged the joint transportation committee to identify  stable transportation funding. Amid the surge in fuel-efficient vehicles and electric-powered vehicles, fuel tax revenues used for transportation have declined, creating a long-term budget challenge for Oregon and other states that need steady funding to maintain existing roads, highways and bridges and build new infrastructure in growing regions. 

“First and foremost, we must provide stable and predictable funding for the Oregon Department of Transportation so the agency can provide the essential maintenance and safety services that Oregonians deserve,” Kotek and the legislative leaders wrote in a May 6 letter to transportation committee leaders.

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

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Bert Etling

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