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Massive Oregon Transportation Package Tackles Traffic Congestion, Wintry Weather Issues

By Chris Lehman (OPB)
Salem, Oregon June 2, 2017 12:31 a.m.

Oregon lawmakers are getting closer to a huge transportation spending and planning package.


The 298-page bill lawmakers rolled out Wednesday touches on everything from big public works projects to how cities should respond to wintry weather.

The $8.2 billion package relies on a variety of funding sources:

  • A 12-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, phased in over the next decade
  • Increases in vehicle registration and title fees
  • A 0.75 percent tax on the sales of new and used vehicles
  • A 0.01 percent payroll tax
  • Tolls on two Portland-area freeways, subject to federal approval

The money would be used for:

  • Congestion-relief projects, including an overhaul of Interstate 5 in the Rose Quarter, widening Interstate 205 and OR Highway 217, and smaller projects outside the Portland metro area
  • Seismic upgrades to bridges in earthquake-prone areas
  • Improved bicycle and pedestrian routes
  • Expanded public transportation, including in rural areas

The bill contains other provisions:

  • It would create a task force on "Mega Transportation Projects," which are defined as projects that cost more than $500 million. The task force would make recommendations to be considered by future legislatures
  • The bill would require Portland, Salem and Eugene to salt their main streets and use snowplows anytime more than two inches of snow fall in a 12-hour period.
  • The bill creates a tier of registration fees based on fuel efficiency of the vehicle being registered. Under the proposal, the greater the vehicle's fuel efficiency, the higher the registration fee. The rationale for the plan is that fuel efficient vehicles pay less, on average, in motor fuel taxes. Electric cars would pay the highest registration fee under the plan

The legislative committee considering the transportation package will hold at least two public hearings this month. Changes to the bill are likely before it comes up for a vote. Since the measure contains a tax increase, it would require bipartisan support in the legislature.