Who's going to step up for local transportation needs?
I love living in Clackamas County. It's a wonderful place to call home. But it's often not a wonderful place to drive.
Like much of Oregon, Clackamas County has grown at a rapid pace. With that growth comes the need for infrastructure investment; not only for pedestrians, bikes and transit, but for our cars, trucks and trains as well.
Absent that investment, our commutes home each day often feel like sitting in a parking lot, waiting for all the cars on I-205 to inch past potholes that are too deep, lanes that are too skinny, and bridges that are too old.
But this is about a lot more than commuters like me trying to get to work.
Clackamas County's economy depends on the ability for freight to move. Many of our local businesses need to not only get goods to customers, they rely on goods to make it to their business so they can keep doing what they do. We're a county whose economy relies heavily on farms and nurseries, and the ability to get crops and nursery stock out to customers. Much of that freight moves around on our local roads, especially on I-205. The very livelihood of our local farmers, nursery folks, and other businesses are at stake, and it costs them dearly when their goods can't get where they're supposed to go in a timely manner.
Last year when the Oregon Legislature was working on the transportation package, I contacted State Sen. Alan Olsen to find out whether or not he was supportive. As a constituent, I wanted to understand his position on this vital piece of legislation and it was getting close to time to vote on it. Given how much trouble so many of us were having with traffic congestion on I-205, ensuring the transportation package included fixes for this vital freeway is important to me and to the people who live and work in District 20.
Sen. Olsen told me that he didn't know what was in the bill, and so he couldn't tell me whether he would vote for it or not. I was startled and confused by this. Our state senator, the person who is supposed to be looking out for our best interests while he's in the Capitol, hadn't even tracked it enough to know the content of this singularly important bill.
It's certainly fair to say that our state legislators have a great deal of work to do and perhaps it can be difficult to discuss the full content of every piece of legislation with every constituent. But this was a major bill that had been underway for nearly a year, with potentially huge ramifications for Clackamas County. Sen. Olsen was simply not engaged with it. He hadn't worked with other legislators to get a seat at the table and wasn't fighting for us to get vital funds to fix traffic congestion making it difficult for so many businesses in Senate District 20.
Voters send representatives to Salem to take care of business for us. We expect them to watch out for us, and work hard in our best interest. The failure of Sen. Olsen to do the work to secure funding for our district's basic transportation needs leaves Clackamas County at an economic disadvantage.
A report by the Clackamas County Transportation Commission, which met Jan. 18, on the I-205 project need and costs can be found at content.govdelivery.com/accounts/ORDOT/bulletins/1d39920
Charles Gallia is a resident of the Carver neighborhood outside of Oregon City who is running for Senate District 20.