Action Alert: Help Win Dedicated Funding for Biking, Walking and Transit

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.

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.


Comments (7)

  1. Ann Marland Permalink  | Jun 11, 2013 10:26am

    I am a member of the Sisters Trails Alliance in Sisters OR. We are working hard to find funding to build a paved path from Sisters to Black Butte Ranch. The will have a big impact on the economy of Sisters. We have 63 miles of signed hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails that we have built. A paved path would be our first.

    Thank you for doing this.

    Ann Marland

  2. Gary Guttormsen Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 08:05am

    I am the chairperson for the Sisters Trails Alliance and would like to go on record fully supporting SB 247. STA has been planning a major paved multi-use path that would connect three large subdivisions to the City of Sisters. Funding such a project is a daunting task! There needs to be reliable funding sources in Oregon to help build the kind of multi-modal project we are proposing. If passed, I’m hoping that more projects like ours will be possible.

  3. Cora PEPIN Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 08:16am

    As a person in the Sisters area who commutes by bicycle, I would feel ever so much safer if I could do so on paved paths. For this reason I urge support of Senate Bill 247.

  4. Ken Serkownek Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 08:36am

    I would like to express my support for SN 247. In the future particularly with the decline of fossil fuels, creating paths for pedestrians and bicyclists is crucial. It is also well known that there are significant health benefits associated with walking or biking versus riding in cars. Again please support SB 247.

  5. Patrick Eckford Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 12:54pm

    I would also like to express my strong support for SB 247. Consistent and dedicated funding for paths and transportation corridors for pedestrians and bicyclists is badly needed. Help Oregon remain a national leader in the promotion of non-motorized paths and trails. Please support SB 247

  6. Phyllis Lewis Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 06:51pm

    In my travels through the Northwest (WA, ID, MT) I am amazed to find paved bike-Ped trails that connect communities and towns already in place making travel safer and healthier and less congested.

    When I return to Oregon, I am dismayed at the lack of such paved trail connections. Sisters is in considerable need of funding for a paved trail heading west to Black Butte Ranch and from there to Camp Sherman. It would be the first paved trail connecting these two western towns in
    Deschutes and Jefferson counties. This trail would bring economic benefit to an area designated as economically distressed by encouraging visitors to easily commute between locations.

    The next connector needed is a paved trail to the east to Bend. SB 247 would be a signifigant step towards helping small communities and the volunteers who give generously of their time to create and maintain trails.
    Your support of this bill would be a generous start in the right direction for Oregon. Please support this bill.

  7. Donna Timmerman Permalink  | Jun 12, 2013 09:57pm

    I am requesting that you support SB 247. Paths for bicyclists and walkers/runners draw visitors to the area who provide economic growth for the surrounding communities, improve the health of the path users through exercise, and reduce pollution by providing alternative non-motorized transportation routes. We need reliable funding to build and maintain those paths which SB 247 could help provide.