Ore. transportation bill could have a big impact on local roads -- and your wallet
SALEM, Ore. —
The Oregon legislature is working on a transportation bill right now that could have a big impact on local roads and your wallet.
It seems standstill traffic seems to be a daily occurrence recently, and it's not just in Portland. Traffic in Wilsonville has increased about 10 percent since 2010. At the Interstate Bridge, it has increased 7 percent in the same time period.
The Oregon legislature has proposed a several billion dollar mass project that, if approved, should alleviate some of your stress. Their number one priority is Interstate 5 at the Rose Quarter. Officials want to add new lanes there to alleviate the bottlenecks. They'd also like to add new lanes to Highway 217.
And Interstate 205 between Stafford Road and the Abernathy Bridge would be widened, providing relief to an evening commute that stretches for miles.
The plan includes other projects throughout the state that would be implemented over a 10-year period. Legislators on both sides of the aisle feel the can has been kicked down the road long enough.
"It's a crime that we haven't regularly funded out transportation needs. Now's the time to catch up, and hopefully get ahead," Senator Rod Monroe (D) said.
Catching up won't be easy. Portland is now one of the most congested cities its size nationwide.
"52 hours a year spent by drivers in Portland jsut trying to get through congestion -- 52 hours! Lost. Gone. Goodbye!" ?Rep. Cliff Bentz (R) said.
The billion dollar question is, how do we pay for it all?
Lawmakers are proposing a combination of gas tax increases, bicycle taxes, new car sales taxes, payroll taxes, higher registration fees and toll roads to pay the giant tab.
So how much more would that cost you in an average year? It really depends if you drive a car, own a bike or you're willing to pay a toll.
"Most people don't want to pay taxes. They certainly don't want to pay tolls. But I don't think they want to sit in that congestion for 52 hours a year. I don't think they want to drive across bridges holding their breath. I don't think they want to watch roads their parents and grandparents paid for, fail," Rep. Bentz said.
Several lawmakers traveled across the state last summer asking their constituents what they'd like to see in a transportation package. Most said, make it big. Still, the push back will likely come, from those who feel their legislators have failed them by waiting too long,, and now the price is just too high.
Sen. Monroe says if that's the case, look for worse congestion, the strangling of commerce and yet another kick of the can -- even further down the road.
"This is the biggest effort [in my 40 years] to deal with the problems, and if we fail, well, I just say we can't afford to fail. We just can't afford to fail," Sen. Monroe said.
The bill still has to go through public hearings and votes in the House and Senate.