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Recommendation comes at the request of legislators who are crafting a 2017 transportation package.

PARIS ACHEN - Left to right, Travis Brouwer, assistant director at the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Transportation Commission Chairwoman Tammy Baney and Transportation Commissioner Sean O'Hollaren testify in front of the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization Dec. 13, 2016, at the Oregon Capitol.SALEM — The Oregon Transportation Commission has recommended state legislators boost transportation spending by $574 million a year to upgrade roads and bridges and relieve traffic congestion in metro areas.

The figure is the first concrete proposal in play for a transportation package, which is expected to be one of the major issues in front of the Legislature in 2017. The legislation will likely send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Department of Transportation, which the commission oversees.

Transportation commissioners presented a draft report outlining their recommendations Tuesday, Dec. 13, to the legislative committee charged with crafting the transportation package. The transportation commission voted unanimously Thursday, Dec. 15, to support the recommendations for the investment strategy, with possible amendments based on the results of an upcoming performance audit of ODOT management and other minor changes.

"We are creating a menu for you to start from," said Tammy Baney, transportation commission chairwoman.

The committee's leadership requested the report from the transportation commission to serve as a foundation for drafting the legislation, which is scheduled to be released in January.

"These are the experts, so we have asked them to bring us their thoughts," said Rep. Caddy McKeown, co-chairperson of the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization. "This is the starting point of the conversation."

The state spends about $1.3 billion a year on transportation system maintenance and upgrades. The commission's recommendation would bring that amount up to $1.9 billion, said Transportation Commissioner Sean O'Hollaren.

Lawmakers would likely finance the transportation package by hiking the gas tax and other fees.

The legislative committee traveled the state and held hearings in 11 different locations to help identify the public's and local governments' priorities for a transportation package.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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