This post contains policy language from a long history of legislative attempts to dedicate funding to bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects; including the 2008 Transportation Vision Committee Report to Governor Ted Kulongoski from Nov. 2008, The Oregon Global Warming Commission Report to the Legislature from Feb. 2011, and the Oregon Non Roadway Transportation Funding Options Report to the Governor from May 2012.
The State of Oregon faces major challenges to providing adequate and stable funding for non-roadway transportation modes. These modes include transit, freight and passenger rail, ports, aviation, bicycle paths and facilitates, and pedestrian ways. Funding these non-roadway transportation modes has perennially been difficult in Oregon given constitutional restrictions that limit motor vehicle fees and taxes exclusively to roadways and the absence of state sales tax, a primary source for non-roadway transportation funding in many other states.
Before creation of the ConnectOregon program in 2005, there was no mechanism for routine investment in Oregon’s non-highway transportation system. Given the constitutional restrictions placed on Oregon’s highway fund, Governor Kulongoski’s 2008 Transportation Vision Committee recommended the immediate creation of a fund statutorily dedicated to investments in Oregon’s non-highway transportation needs. A dedicated fund is imperative to assure balanced, multimodal transportation services for people and goods.
We must also ensure Oregon’s transportation system is energy-efficient and environmentally sound, as per the goals of the adopted Oregon Transportation Plan, which guides all state-level transportation decisions, as well as the Governor’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan. This includes meeting the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Modeling for the Statewide Transportation Strategy for Reducing Greenhouse Gases (GHG) found that achieving reductions will require multiple strategies, including more public transportation and improvements that make it easier for Oregonians to walk and bicycle. As the state’s population and economy grow, Oregon will be unable to meet its emission reduction targets if Oregonians have no choice but to continue driving as much as the average household does today.
These “active transportation” components—transit, passenger rail, bicycle and pedestrian facilities—have significant unmet funding needs. In recent years, some funding pots have been eliminated, reduced or merged with highway funding, including Business Energy Tax Credits and ODOT’s federal Flexible Funds program. A new concept, ConnectOregon Plus, would begin to provide needed funding.
ConnectOregon Plus provides on-going funding (a.k.a. a “continuous appropriation”) from the State Lottery Fund for the ConnectOregon program (Multimodal Transportation Fund), rather than the current biennial bond authorization. It broadens ConnectOregon’s focus on non-highway transportation to include bicycle and pedestrian projects, as well as transit and passenger operations.
The bill dedicates 50% of the annual allocation toward air, marine and rail projects and 50% toward bicycle and pedestrian projects, passenger rail and public transit projects, including operating assistance for passenger rail and public transit.
The benefits of this approach include an increase in overall funding, a new continuous appropriation process that provides certainty for funding, and dedication of revenue to critical biking, walking, and transit projects that can reduce household transportation costs and improve public health.
Meeting multiple long-standing transportation needs simultaneously, ConnectOregon Plus is a new approach to funding and building a sustainable economy through focus on much needed infrastructure for moving people and freight.
Oregon’s Senate Business, Transportation, and Economic Development Committee has scheduled a public hearing on Connect Oregon Plus, titled Senate Bill 247. The bill will be heard on Tuesday, February 19th at 3:00pm in the State Capitol, Hearing Room B. For more details on the bill and it’s current status, check out the bill’s Oregon Legislative Information System page. https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB247
We encourage BTA members and supporters to join us and testify in support of Connect Oregon Plus, or at least write a letter to your legislator. For a list of important points to share with legislators, click here to download a description of the benefits of Connect Oregon Plus.