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Five years after House Bill 2017, the biggest transportation funding package in Oregon history, ODOT has made significant progress.

In 2016, a bipartisan committee held public hearings and community tours across Oregon. Residents from east, west, urban and rural communities told the committee about their transportation problems and how their proposed solutions would help keep their families safe, their businesses strong and their communities connected. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Kris Strickler is the director of ODOT.

As a result of that community outreach, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2017, the biggest transportation funding package in state history. That legislation set out to do a number of things: reduce congestion in the Portland area, make it safer for people to walk and bike, expand transit across the state, prepare our bridges for the coming earthquake, improve our ports and rail facilities, and encourage the transition to electric vehicles.

Five years later, ODOT has made significant progress on all of those fronts.PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Beaverton and Tigard officials say Highway 217 improvements will mean fewer crashes and less congestion.

The congestion relief projects in the Portland metro area are moving along. We finished construction on the I-205 auxiliary lanes near the interchange with I-84 in 2019. The Rose Quarter Improvement Project has received the support of community groups and local governments after being redesigned to better address the desires of the Albina neighborhood.

The I-205 improvements project, which includes the seismic upgrades to Abernethy Bridge, is currently out to bid. We're moving congestion pricing through the federal approval process with a target launch of late 2024. And we began construction on the Highway 217 auxiliary lane project this winter. These projects, originally envisioned in HB 2017, are critical components of the Urban Mobility Strategy and will deliver a reliable, safe and modern system to connect communities, reduce transportation emissions, and support Oregon businesses to grow our economy.

But HB 2017 didn't just direct ODOT to construct highway projects. We've used this additional funding to dramatically expand the number of biking and walking projects we construct across the state. In just four years, the Safe Routes to Schools program has invested $48 million in 70 projects across Oregon. These projects include 445 crossings, 167 curb ramps, 124 sidewalk improvements and 33 lighting upgrades, helping Oregon's children get to school safely. PMG FILE IMAGE - The Rose Quarter with the improvements proposed as part of the Rose Quarter Project.

We've also funded 21 multiuse path projects with over $15 million in grants for local communities to help separate people walking and biking from auto and freight traffic.

To increase transit use across Oregon, build a connected transit network across the state, and reduce emissions, the legislative package instituted a first-of-its-kind statewide payroll tax. With the average worker paying around $1 more a week in payroll tax, we've been able to invest $312 million in public transportation across the state. Working with local transit agencies, we've provided more than 100,000 students with access to free or reduced fares, funded 7 million passenger rides and purchased more than 200 new buses with 50 of those being low or no emission vehicles.

This funding supported free rides to vaccination sites, help with evacuations during wildfires and mobile cooling centers during the 2021 heatwaves.

The disasters of the past few years show how important it is to prepare for the coming major earthquake. New funding for seismic improvements has allowed us to design lifeline routes that will be immediately operational after the shaking ends. This includes I-205 and segments of I-5 in southern Oregon.

Oregon's economy depends on exports, and exports need high-quality port and rail infrastructure to get to market. The legislation provided ODOT with stable and permanent funding to improve our rail and port facilities. The first projects have been in the Port of Morrow, Malheur County and Millersburg in the upper Willamette Valley. These projects help our rural economy by getting goods to market more efficiently and with less emissions. PMG FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Abernethy Bridge is part of the I-205 improvements.

The legislation also provided significant funding to electrify the vehicle fleet. ODOT is revitalizing and expanding the public charging network, and the legislation expanded the rebates for electric vehicles, a program administered by the Department of Environmental Quality.

House Bill 2017 generated a substantial amount of money and the public can count on us to manage their money honestly. All Oregonians can go to our Transparency, Accountability and Performance website and see what they're getting out of their investment. They can see our internal audits and see how we're coming along on our projects all across the state.

We're only five years into implementing this legislative package. Over the next few years, Oregonians will see their transportation system continue to improve with new transit opportunities, innovation to manage congestion, improved air quality and safer and more welcoming options for biking and walking. The results of this package show what is possible when we come together as a state and fund needed improvements.

Kris Strickler is director of ODOT. Comments can be directed to 888-Ask-ODOT or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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