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Nafisa Fai & Juan Carlos Gonzalez: County may 'uniquely benefit from increased investments in walking and biking.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Nafisa FaiAs elected leaders of Washington County, we strongly support the increased funding for walking and biking infrastructure contained in Senate Bill 395. This needed update to the historic Bike Bill will support equitable investments in our infrastructure and the needs of underserved parts of our community.

Washington County continues to grow as we attract people drawn by our strong economy and exceptional quality of life. At the same time, we are also navigating how to overcome the legacies of discrimination against communities of color to ensure government is inclusive and responsive to all. Building a robust network for walking, rolling and biking serves both of these important objectives.

The transportation future of our region envisions a comprehensive network that supports all forms of travel. That includes making walking and biking more accessible for all. In 2010, walking and biking made up 5.3% of trips in Washington County, and under the targets in Metro's regional transportation plan that should grow to 22% by 2035.

FILE PHOTO - Juan Carlos GonzalezWalking and biking helps connect people to jobs, shopping, and recreation, including helping residents better access public transit. This is particularly critical for those who cannot rely on a vehicle to get where they are going, including lower-income families and older residents who can no longer drive.

Washington County is the most diverse large county in Oregon. We know that our communities of color, as well as immigrant and refugee populations, are more dependent on safe access to transit and walkable and bikeable routes to get where they are going. The increased funding resulting from this bill would provide a clear benefit to those underserved communities.

Investments in safe routes to school, pedestrian improvements, and safe ways to bike, help strengthen the entire transportation network by reducing traffic fatalities and congestion, as well as improving public health. Sufficient funding is critical to provide these enhancements to the network.

Under the Bike Bill passed 50 years ago, 1% of state highway funds are dedicated to walking and biking improvements. This important step has supported investments across the state, but more is needed. That is why Senate Bill 395 would increase that allocation to 5% to support the vision for walking and biking laid out in our state and regional transportation plans.

Washington County stands to uniquely benefit from increased investments in walking and biking. Our roadway system supports our growing communities and connects residents to the beautiful outdoor opportunities in our backyard. Connecting our cities to rural paths in the forests and farmlands helps all residents find ways to recreate, supporting good health and a better quality of life.

We recognize the many competing needs for transportation dollars as the traditional way we have funded our infrastructure are strained by declining revenue and increasing demand. We support current conversations looking to redesign how we fund transportation in our state and the region.

But we also see the urgency to make a greater commitment to walking and biking now if we are to meet the strategic goals we've set. SB 395 will provide a critical mechanism for ensuring that walking and biking infrastructure serves a growing role in our transportation future. It is the right thing for our region and for our underserved communities. We urge legislators to take action to adopt this important legislation.

Nafisa Fai is a Washington County commissioner from Beaverton. Juan Carlos González is a Metro councilor from Hillsboro.

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