Road work ahead for foreseeable future
Don't like traffic construction?
We've got good news and we've got bad news. More construction projects are heading our way, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
That's both the good and bad news. The construction is annoying, to be sure, but it's designed to address delayed and deferred safety maintenance, and to acknowledge the population growth that the area will continue to experience.
The latest news: Gov. Kate Brown had threatened to veto $2 million in funding for long-awaited safety upgrades on Capitol Highway, a major throughway for traffic to and from Washington County.
But safety advocates and fellow Democrats talked her down from the veto. The money will get allocated.
The funds will bolster existing dollars for a $10 million project to widen and add sidewalks and bike paths to a dangerous section of the street between Garden Home and Taylors Ferry roads. The City of Portland is anteing up some of the money from a temporary gas tax, with the rest coming from a fund called transportation system development charges.
Brown never said the safety work isn't necessary, she just didn't like "the color of the money," to use a government phrase. That is: the $2 million comes from lottery proceeds, and Brown doesn't believe that's the appropriate use of those funds.
She was right to raise the point in her veto threat. She's equally right in capitulating the point, that safety is the north star by which all such decisions should be guided.
Credit goes — among others — to Sen. Ginny Burdick, whose district includes Tigard and the unsafe roadway in question. She fought hard to keep the funding in place.
This project will tear up portions of the street and will frustrate drivers... for a time. But bike lanes and sidewalk add to safety (and to public health). These are good and necessary changes.
And the list keeps coming. The 2017 Oregon Legislature passed a bipartisan $5.3 billion transportation plan, which will fund projects spread over a decade. The package will be paid for through increases in the gas tax, registration fees and new taxes on payroll, new vehicle purchases and bicycles priced more than $200.
What's in it for Washington County and surrounding regions? The answer:
• $22 million for design work on The Newberg-Dundee Bypass and Highway 99W.
• $44 million for Highway 217 southbound through Beaverton.
• $54 million for Highway 217 northbound in the same area.
The package of proposals also includes four increases in the state gas tax stretched over a seven-year period. Transportation projects within cities and counties would benefit from the additional revenue, including:
• Washington County: $13 million.
• Hillsboro: $2.5 million.
• Beaverton: $2.4 million.
• Tigard: $1.3 million.
• Tualatin: $678,000
• King City: $89,000
• Durham: $47,000
Other key investments, to be shared statewide, include $10 million per year for a program called Safe Routes to Schools, which provides funds for crosswalks, lights, sidewalks and other investments to make school zones safer. That investment increases to $15 million per year by 2023.
The bill includes $130 million per year for statewide transit programs. The idea is to improve the connectivity and frequency of bus service in rural, suburban and urban communities, making it easier for people to take mass transit between cities.
Finally, the package includes $1.2 million per year for bike and pedestrian safety projects statewide.
To be sure: Everyone of these will include flaggers and delays, dust and noise, grumbling drivers and missed meetings. That's the nature of traffic projects.
But drivers can take to heart this truism: The only thing worse than waiting for 'em to fix your road, is to watch your road fall apart due to negligence.