Transportation Bill Includes Some Potential Wins for Bicycling, Walking, Transit, and Safe Routes- Your Voice Needed

Yesterday evening the full text (289 pages!) of the long-awaited transportation funding bill was released by the Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization.

Being the broad compromise that it is, the bill currently holds a lot to be excited about, while also containing some causes for concern.

You’re invited to join us Tuesday, June 6th for The Street Trust’s Bike Ride to Salem to offer testimony in support of Bicycle, Pedestrian, Transit, and Safe Routes to School investments.

Public hearings on HB 2017 are expected to occur next Tuesday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 7. You can submit written testimony at any time at this email address.

We thank our Transportation for Oregon’s Future coalition partners at Oregon Environmental Council for their analysis of the 289 page bill from which we drew heavily to offer our analysis below.

Here are our initial takeaways on our top priorities:

Safe Routes to School

The package will begin to help children safely walk and bike to their neighborhood school, but it should do more. Along with other partners in the For Every Kid Coalition, we want this bill to be at least as strong as the components outlined in House Bill 3230. We want to see HB 2017 amended to remove the ten-year sunset on the program, expand the street safety funding to $15M per year, fund in-classroom bicycle and pedestrian safety education with $6M per year, prioritize investments and create a flexible local match for Title 1 schools, and expand the radius for eligible projects around schools to 1 mile.

Bicycle/Pedestrian Infrastructure

The package makes a small nod to other bicycle/pedestrian needs beyond Safe Routes to School, including some inter-jurisdictional road transfers that will enable localized solutions to serious safety problems, but the investments are small in comparison to the need.   The allotment of 7% of ConnectOregon dollars and transfer of $4 million from the State Parks & Recreation Department for bike trails is not new money. The new source of funds is an excise tax on bicycles. The Street Trust does not support a bike tax, as bicyclists do pay for local infrastructure through property taxes and benefit the community via cleaner air, lower societal health burden, less congestion, and more.

A Major Investment in Public Transit

A statewide employee payroll tax would fund rural and urban transit all around state, providing Oregonians access to jobs and other daily needs. Importantly, transit agencies will be required to demonstrate how their increased transit service will meet the needs of lower-income Oregonians. Public transit is a lynchpin for the package, and we are asking the legislature to also fund a companion bill focused on student transportation, HB 2693, which includes grants to support youth transit passes.

Roads and Multimodal Freight Improvements

The package will go a long way to fixing state, county and city roads, as well as funding important freight infrastructure through ConnectOregon. We are cognizant of the fact that stakeholders all over the state called for removing bottlenecks in the Portland region. While some fixes are warranted, research clearly shows that widening roads only leads to more traffic, more pollution and eventually back to gridlock, so we’re glad to see a move toward using existing road space more efficiently through peak period pricing and other smart technologies.

That said, the bill appears to list a number of pet roadway projects that do not provide a path to meeting our health and climate goals.

We support the new privilege tax on the retail sale of motor vehicles–it has a perfect nexus to transportation. However, by restricting it to being spent on roads and freight alone, the state misses an opportunity to reduce congestion through multimodal investments and to invest in clean vehicles. The package won’t move the needle when it comes to accelerating the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs).

Accountability

We applaud legislators for including a number of provisions that will increase accountability and provide Oregonians more transparent information about how their tax dollars are being spent to improve the way people and goods get around.

Public hearings on HB 2017 are expected to occur next Tuesday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 7. Join our June 6th #RideToSalem or submit written testimony at any time.

Join The Street Trust’s mailing list to receive future Action Alerts.

The Street Trust is a member of Transportation for Oregon’s Future. For a full list of coalition priorities and partners visit: oeconline.org/transport4OR #transport4OR

Comment

Comments (5)

  1. Jim Ross Permalink  | Jun 03, 2017 04:09pm

    One quick question – Is there any negative you can think of about Bicycling?

    It is one of life’s few win, win, win activities. Why not mainline it in all
    ways possible!

    Thank you

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