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Fixes stall on logic, cash
WEB COMMENTS • Check out what online readers have to say
Transportation is a major issue in Oregon, and Jim Redden's March 2 story, 'So many projects, so little funding' addressed a big question on everyone's minds: How are we going to pay for major transportation projects?'
Readers had a lot to say about the issue on our Web sites, www.portlandtribune.com and www.localnewsdaily.com. Here are some of the comments:
Trucks have long funded roads, transit
'Traffic congestion needs to be addressed and it involves all of us,' states the March 2 article 'So many projects, so little funding.'
No, it doesn't. It only involves those who create it.
For people in Burns, the cost of congestion is minuscule. Their costs involve having roads with potholes that cause damage to their cars. And those potholes are going to keep increasing in frequency and size if we keep spending money in the false hope of 'fixing' congestion instead of fixing the roads we have.
There is an ongoing argument about whether trucks in Oregon pay their fair share of road costs. The debate over whether to continue weight-mile charges for trucks has been one of the barriers to getting any increase in gas tax.
Trucks have been funding U.S. roads for years. The next time you drive down the road, thank a trucking company. They are the ones who have really paid the bill.
That said, there is a lot of evidence that the massive need to rebuild bridges throughout the state is a direct result of increases in allowed vehicle weights beyond those allowed when the bridges originally were designed and built.
It's a good example of why the idea that trucks pay more than their fair share is being questioned.
As for gas taxes paying for light rail, the Oregon gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to roads. It doesn't pay for anything else.
The same for weight-mile taxes. Congress has allocated a very small portion of the federal taxes to transit. And some of that money has made up the federal grants that paid for most of Portland's light-rail system.
User fees fund a lot, except congestion's fix
Interstate MAX. MAX to Clackamas Town Center. MAX to Milwaukie. Streetcars. Trams. Commuter Rail. A baseball stadium with a light rail extension. Bicycle paths. Smart Growth planning using Oregon Department of Transportation money. Subsidizing the MAX. Bus, tram and commuter rail operations.
There's no question about how all this will be funded, it just happens - using auto taxes and truck fees.
Now we need to improve the transportation infrastructure because we have added density and Smart Growth projects and have more people using our roads.
Is it only now we are worried where the money will come from?
The user taxes for projects like this have been squandered on projects that do little or nothing to relieve congestion.
Road builders have to wake up
It's refreshing that for the first time in 10 years, a few elected officials - including Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder - are informing the public that we should think about planning in realistic terms, not in a dream world.
Burkholder has orchestrated a new opening chapter in the region's update of its draft Regional Transportation Plan.
A few years ago, some highway builders spent a lot of taxpayer money writing an environmental impact report to analyze a proposed Washington County 'Westside Bypass.' It sounded like what Interstate 205 was supposed to be in the '60s (or even earlier).
Now they're going to spend more money writing more impact statements for: Oregon Highway 217 widening; the Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing; I-5/Oregon Highway 99W; I-205 widening; the Sunrise Freeway; and the list goes on.
These environmental studies and the periodic update of the Regional Transportation Plan is putting communities like Milwaukie and other Portland-area cities in the poorhouse, because each jurisdiction must update its Transportation System Plan to be compliant with regional and state policy.
The end result? More bookshelves filled with reports to justify Region 2040 impossibilities when expanding our urban growth boundary. The problem with all these reports is that there is not enough fairy dust to bring all these hopes to reality.
That's where Burkholder comes in. He logically questions the entire process. He asks where we are headed today with the resources we have on hand rather than offering some hopeful revenue source off in the distant future.
Because we don't have money to build roads, some folks blame all our misfortunes on transportation alternatives: streetcars, light rail, bicycle and walking paths, bus networks and trains. We're hearing that these other systems are stealing all the car money.
It's my contention after watching our urban and suburban communities evolve over the last 50 years, that now, our worse fears are really coming home to roost.
We just can't have everything we want. We either learn to live a little closer together or take what's out there if we want elbow room. Don't ask the government for something we citizens can't afford for the foreseeable future.
I would be the first to try out my new golf cart on the local street to the store and continue to plan my trips during nonpeak traffic hours. Just don't ask me to give up my daily candy bar.
Thanks, Rex, for keeping us on the real track, and not just part of some bureaucratic folly.