In Short

How should Oregon spend $400 million on roads and transit? State officials want your input

By: - February 4, 2022 4:08 pm

A new guardrail installed on Oregon Highway 224 in January 2022/Oregon Department of Transportation

The Oregon Transportation Commission wants Oregonians’ thoughts on how best to spend more than $400 million, available as part of the recent federal infrastructure law.

Oregon will receive more than $3.4 billion for roads over the next five years, with $1.2 billion going directly to the state Transportation Department and the rest being parcelled among local governments. Most of the state’s $1.2 billion comes with strings attached, but the Transportation Department has wide leeway for how to spend $412 million. 

Agency officials developed four suggestions for how to divvy up the money. All four start by setting aside $198 million to install curb ramps for people using wheelchairs or walkers or pushing strollers, maintain existing roads and provide matching funds for competitive grants. 

The first option, dubbed “Fix-It,” would spend $107 million preserving bridges and highways — such as  patching potholes. Another roughly $50 million would go toward adding highway lanes and fixing interchanges, and $38 million would be used to make state highways that go through towns friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists. 

The remaining $16 million would expand a program that provides safe routes to schools by adding sidewalks and crosswalks. 

A second option emphasizes safe routes to schools and greater pedestrian access. That proposal would spend $75 million to make highways safer for people walking or biking, $31 million on safe routes to schools and $54 million each on preserving highways and adding to highways.

The third option gives $107 million, nearly half of the available money, to projects to add lanes or adjust highway interchanges. Highway repair projects would get $54 million under this plan, while $38 million would go to walkers and bikers and $15 million to improve safe walking routes for school children.

A final option  seeks to balance the competing priorities. Under this plan, the Transportation Department would spend $71 million on preserving highways, $71 million to expand highways, $50 million on improving access for non-drivers and $22 million on school routes.

Oregonians have three ways to weigh in on the proposed plans before March 10.

First, an online survey lets people rate the three proposals and write their own feedback. They can also use an online form to send written comments about the plans to the Oregon Transportation Commission.

The Transportation Commission will take public comments via Zoom at its meetings on Thursday Feb. 17, and Thursday, March 10, though comments will be limited. More information will be available online as those meetings approach. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.