Updated: OTC/LCDC move away from State Planning Goals, towards building roads in response to development

Update: 1000 Friends has put their official comments to the workgroup (PDF, 245K) online.

A primary purpose of the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), which implements Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation), is to assure that land uses and transportation systems are planned together “to reduce reliance on the automobile so that the air pollution, traffic and other livability problems faced by urban areas in other parts of the country might be avoided.”

Because it is very difficult to construct a new road through a developed area and because a road once built is very difficult to move or remove, it is critical that land uses and transportation system be planned together to get the roads and other transportation facilities right the first time.

But a joint subcommittee of the Land Conservation Development Commission (LCDC) and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) is looking to change the purpose of the rule to deemphasize coordinated land use and transportation planning and to emphasize building more roads to serve development that has already occurred — an approach that would likely cost taxpayers more, use up land quicker and be no more effective at controlling traffic congestion.

The subcommittee was originally created to address concerns about the extent to which there should be adequate transportation facilities to serve new development arising out of the Jaqua v. City of Springfield (PeaceHealth) case decided by LUBA and the Court of Appeals. But those issues were mostly resolved last March when LCDC clarified the applicable rules.

But now the subcommittee is moving forward to change other parts of the rule, with no mandate for doing so.

While the current staff proposal states that the TPR “implements Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation) and provisions of other statewide planning goals related to transportation planning,” staff has so far ignored Goal 12 and the other planning goals. Rather, the real goal of the effort appears to be to satisfy certain vocal developers and other special interests to allow development with few restrictions — and to facilitate ODOT constructing highways after the fact in response to such development .

The next meeting of the advisory TPR Work Group, which consists of some interested stakeholders, is on Tuesday, August 2, 9 am – noon, at the ODOT HR Training Center, 2775 19th Street SE, Salem, OR 97302-1503 from 9 am – 12 pm. The next meeting of the joint subcommittee is on Friday, September 23, 8 am – noon, at the same location.

If you would like to know more, please contact me.

21 responses to “Updated: OTC/LCDC move away from State Planning Goals, towards building roads in response to development”

  1. What’s wrong with these morons? Can somebody explain this shift in policy… or has it been a long time in coming?

    Actaully, it kind of marches to the same tune as Kulongoski’s Measure 37 bill that would allow transferable development rights.

    He DID, after all, talk about jumpstarting Oregon’s economy. Sprawl is one way to do it…

  2. This sure is an interesting blog.

    It appears to me that the “reduce reliance on the automobile” bit was created by a Bureaucrat as an administrative rule. So what’s the big deal. Elect different legislators if you want that failed policy to continue.

    “to emphasize building more roads to serve development that has already occurred”

    OK, we need more capacity, Should have happened years ago.

    “an approach that would likely cost taxpayers more, use up land quicker and be no more effective at controlling traffic congestion”

    Spending road gas taxes on roads costs more?
    Useing land is better than cramming everyone into chaos. And we have plenty of land.
    Traffic congestion is a product of insufficient capacity. Where do you get this stuff?

  3. Thanks, Ben, for your comments.

    Actually, the “reduce reliance on the automobile” language in the Transportation Planning Rule didn’t come from a bureaucrat. It came from Statewide Planning Goal 12 (Transportation): “… A transportation plan shall … (4) avoid principal reliance upon any one mode of transportation; …” Goal 12 – like all the goals – was adopted in 1974 after extensive public discussions all over the state.

    While the idea is expressed in negative terms of what to avoid, the postive idea is to provide transportation choices so that different people can use the mode of transportation that makes the most sense for different trips. And after all, having choices is what we aspire to in a free and democratic country.

    It’s not so simple as to say we need more capacity. One problem that often happens is that development occurs before anyone has thought enough about all the traffic and what to do about it. For better or worse, once the development has occurred, sometimes you can’t simply build a new road or widen an existing road – at least not without condemning lots of existing homes and businesses. For example, it would be essentially impossible now to widen I-84 in Portland without massive dispruptions to existing development. It would also be very disruptive to build some kind of new parallel corridor or bypass.

    The problem is that the right-of-way needed to build more capacity might not be available if good planning didn’t occur prior to all the development to set aside the needed right-of-way.

    It’s also not so simple as spending gas taxes on roads. Ask any city or county in the state, and they will tell you that the revenues they receive from gas taxes aren’t enough to even patch all the potholes in the roads they already have. The state gas tax hasn’t increased in a decade, and during that time inflation and increasing average fuel efficiency have eroded the value of collected gas taxes. As it is, few people in the state have been jumping up and down for the gas tax increases that would be needed even to maintain the roads we have (although some cities and counties are going ahead and imposing local gas taxes to fund road maintenance).

    The issue is that there is a limited amount of money for roads and other transportation facilities and services. Money spent on, say, a new highway interchange here is money that can’t be spent on a highway interchange there. Hard choices are made all the time about what we can afford to build. In many cases, the answer is that people will just have to live with more traffic congestion. Given that we have limited transportation dollars, it makes sense to plan things to reduce the amount that needs to be spent in order to make the transportation dollars we have go farther. In particular, condemning and buying up expensive houses and businesses to build a new road is a very costly way to spend public money and something that should be avoided whenever possible.

    It’s true that having people live farther apart is one choice. But that choice invariably leads to people driving more and farther on average. If you understand that the cost of the transportation system is roughly proportional to how much people drive – more driving means more lane miles are needed means a greater cost – then more spread out development translates to very real higher costs. If people are willing to accept such higher costs, for example, in the form of higher gas taxes to construct and maintain the roads, then that is something to consider. But people shouldn’t think that there is a free ride.

  4. “If people are willing to accept such higher costs, for example, in the form of higher gas taxes to construct and maintain the roads, then that is something to consider. But people shouldn’t think that there is a free ride.”

    Thta’s a farce and you completely ignore the last twenty years of failure and waste of billions on light rail.
    Yes failure despite your “choices” chanting.
    Failed planning as well here in our planning mecca.
    An extra layer of government to do so as well.

    You have some faily common convoluted thinking about transportation.
    Building light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, trams and the TOD program are not spreading our trasnportation dollars further. It is wasting them resulting in the mess we witness everyday.

    Just live with worsening congestion? How about exlaining the deliberate worsening of it by your politico camp?
    Explain how commerce and the economics of that apporach are supposed to work.
    Everything you write spews from the desire to stop sprawl even if it means destroying our cities and our economies.
    Sorry but IMO yo are nuts.
    Your apporach is guaranteed failure and livability is in decline because of it.

  5. Ben,

    I agree that the “People’s Republic of Portland” has been creating its livable city at federal taxpayers expense. Elswhere, I have raised the issue of cost/benefit analysis on LRT projects, which I have observed as poorly utilized and only providing a general benefit at peak hours. However (for those who don’t know) in the 1970’s Portland was presented with a plan to construct freeways at roughly two mile intervals, both north-south and eat-west, like a checkerboard. They were serious about this, until the people rose against it. Tom Walsh was one of the leading opponents, and then proposed a commuter rail sytem along the major freeway arterials. Unfortunately the final costs were way beyond the initial estimates and have since continued to climb.

    I have been raising questions about the Milwaukie LRT plan, est. at $500 million, as well as the Transit Mall it will engender. Neither do I like their silly little Caruthers Bridge when the Marquam bridge could accomodate some tracks on its lower piers. The I-205 LRT CAN function within the present Hillsboro-Gresham track since it is really only a feeder line. Alternatively, we could have a streetcar system, used to capacity, at a fraction of the cost of more LRT.

    You can not simplistically compare roads v. rail. Experience with the automobile has shown that there are a number of associated costs: neighborhood cut-through traffic, parking lots, air pollution,noise pollution, traffic accidents, law enforcement, drunk drivers, breakdowns, etc. It is only fair to add all these costs in, and those that apply to rail as well.

    Portland has also used commuter rail as a mechanism to control and direct development. That is why I am advocating a streetcar for Sellwood-Milwaukie. I hope it makes my property value go up another fifty percent! But we are also fed up with the crush of auto commuters crowding our main street. As a balanced response I would like to see ODOT and Clackamas Co. provide another thoroughfare for their folks to get across the Will. River–right through Lake Oswego!

    I think there has to be a balanced response. Often money is spent on certain roads that don’t need it; other areas get no attention at all. And remember even auto drivers will get mad when the traffic is jammed up. If we try to put expanded roadways in, or new roads, property owners, there, will get mad. There is no simple solution. I think that if we could bring the cost down on a streetcar system it would be a great benefit. It is very likely that Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas Co. will begin to build streetcars, for the US market. So that is an important side benefit.

  6. “But we are also fed up with the crush of auto commuters crowding our main street.”

    Then we should do somthing about it

    You can build and build and build streetcars they will never replace enough cars
    they will never provide any adequate balance, choices,alternatives or anything helpful.
    in fact that will certainly further plunge our transportaion system, mobility, economy and livibility in a decline

  7. ben richards name me a place that built more roads that solved the problem? Its been done over and over again across the US and has been a complete and utter failure. YOu act like we are the only ones with traffic. Do you want to live next to a conjested two lane road or a conjested 12 lane road? Why should our region sacrifice its livibility on a myth that building more roads solves the traffic problem?

  8. Interesting name cab.

    Your question is absurd. Your position is worn out destructive dribble.

    There are countless places which have adequate freeway/road systems, good public transit, good mobilility, less congestion, better economy and most relevant to the nuts around here “high livabiliy”.

    You are amoung those who are thinking we are preserving livability around here.

    You are nuts.

    “cab” is interesting because the farce commuter rail about to be built in Wash. County will provide no benfit at all, spawn hundreds of millionin more spending towards the overcrowding madness in our region and each ride will cost more than a “cab” ride.


    “solve the problem”?

    How about stopping the deliberate casuing of it?

  9. What’s this all about?
    Head in the sand?
    Fear of challenge?
    Protecting your cronic worngness?

    Or just hung up on ruining Oregon with more of the same fallacies?

  10. Ben,

    You have not named the city that is as large or larger than Portland that meets your definition of Utopia with uncongested freeways and local streets? Where is this US city that we should be emulating?

    My personnal belief is that some freeways in Portland (mainly the I5 Corridor and the I405 Loop) need major work (and a new paradigm) and that our freeways should be tolled and the number of ramps reduced. Plus the two interstate bridges should be tolled. Down the road, those two bridges will help with the down payment for the third or fourth bridge (one way west for Washington County and one between Troutdale and Camas. The biggest reason for more bridges on the border is more access from more points for foot and bike traffic.

    Freeways in Oregon should be tolled and used mainly for INTERSTATE commerce, period.

    Bottom line even with your bullying is: Our region will support choice in our transportation option by accessability and by mobility.

    I see this change in the rules as playing catchup for letting all new employment centers be located in Washington County and the cheapest housing being east or north of the rivers. They are now realizing that the Sunrise Corridor; the South I205 work; and the US26/I84 Connection in East County are going to be needed FAST.

    The new employment areas are being zoned in Gresham and Damascus/Boring. Its ten years too late on the transportation planning (The policy for this issue wasn’t in place in a timely manner. Corporations have this same problem of changing to slowly on their policies.) Maybe there was no choice in this because of the lack of political will to stick out your neck and say “Without access and mobility, employers will not come or expand.”

    We, here in Oregon, are like this though. We plan first, then we build (current examples are Springwater and Damascus/Boring).

    Everywhere else builds the roads first without planning for ALL the consequences first (combine it into one word, “sprawl”). We believe in “Place”. We don’t want to look like everyone else. I say, doing that, makes us “follow the party line” which sounds like “Big Brother” to me.

    For now, we need our jobs on the west side and also love the atmosphere; the aging of the place; and our extended families/communities on the eastside. That is our issue in a nutshell.

    Ray Whitford

  11. “I see this change in the rules as playing catchup for letting all new employment centers be located in Washington County and the cheapest housing being east or north of the rivers.”

    Aren’t these cause and effect? Housing that is located away from job centers is always going to be cheaper. You can find very inexpensive housing in rural areas without jobs. Clackamas county hasn’t really lacked space for new development, they simply haven’t been able to attract it. The same is certainly true of Clark County.

    Neither county seems to lack transportation access either – that access is simply being used for retail and other services with their relatively low wage jobs, rather than the traded sector jobs that drive the regional economy. If anything, they have better access to the airport than Washington County does. They are demonstrations that simply providing land and transportation access doesn’t create development.

    Where transportation is an issue for Clark COunty and Clackamas County is trying to get commuters to jobs in Multnomah County and, to a limited extent, Washington County. Yamhill County also has that problem. The notion that they need better transportation to attract jobs is fallacious I think, unless the jobs you are talking about are in housing construction.

    Damascus is a different story. If you want jobs/employers/business to locate in Damascus then you need to connect it to the surrounding transportation facilities in Clackamas and Multnomah County. But the problem is to connect Damascus to the existing transportation network, not that that network is insufficient. Damascus certainly won’t work as a bedroom city of 500,000 people who commute to work in other places. It needs to grow as an employment center.

    And that is really the key to almost all our transporation problems. The idea that people live in one community and travel each day to another to go to work has got to become a rarity rather than a norm. There are businesses that have specialized needs who need access to the entire Portland regional employment market. But they are actually pretty rare. Most businesses, like the high-tech industry in Washington County, tend to cluster in specific places so that they can draw the employees and services they need from a more immediate area.

    So the regional transportation system really has no need for better connections between Washington County and Clark County or Clackamas County. It doesn’t need better connections between Wilsonville and Hillsboro. What it does need is better access for Downtown Portland, Beaverton, Washington Square, Gateway, Vancouver, Clackamas Town Center, Hillsboro and Gresham to the immediate transportation facilities that serve them. We need to worry about getting people/goods/services quickly in and out of the centers, not on getting traffic quickly past them on Highways 217, 36, I5, I205 and I94.

    Unfortunately that flies in the face of what most traffic engineers are trained to do. Move traffic as quickly as possible. They tend to see commercial development adjacent to their facilities as interfering with their proper use rather than as the reason for the roads existence in the first place.

    That is why the planning rule change giving more power to the traffic engineers at ODOT is so dangerous. They simply care more about getting vehicles from here to there, rather than what kind of places the here, the there and the in between become.

  12. Ray and Ross,

    There are countless places which do not use our approach because it is irrational and we have demonstrated it is failure..
    We could have fewer freeway ramps but we also neglected to have frontage roads so people must use them for short trips.
    You are failing to see the perpetual failure in our planning approach while calling for even more insane policies.

  13. Ben,

    This site has a point of view. If your major contribution is going to be to constantly tell us that our point of view is irrational, it’s probably better that you find a different forum to express your thoughts on transportation.


  14. Ok,
    But how do we get good effective transportation policies and a robust economy if you avoid critiquing?
    Seems a bit strange to suggest I go elsewhere when I live here and witness wrong policies which you apparently think work.
    The haphazard nature of growth and development in our region over the past 20 years has put us in a very difficult and challenging position.
    A position which demands a full critiquing of what took place and whether it is worth continuing.

    Asking me to take a hike is very worrisome.

    I wonder what your objectives are if you filter out questions and opposing observations?

    If you are so unreasonable that you are bothered by or fear opposition perhaps there is more to be concerned about than I thought.

  15. Ben, thanks again for your comments.

    I think the concern isn’t that criticism isn’t wanted or useful. The concern is that the criticism should be constructive and respectful. Such criticism is more likely to be welcome and lead to mutual understanding.

    For example, calling another poster “nuts” isn’t very respectful. Such an attitude, if continued, will probably cause others to ask you to “take a hike” as people get tired of being told they are crazy.

    On the other hand, links to credibly sources, examples of specific places where things are working better or worse, or ideas for specifically how Oregon might do things better are all welcome.

    In particular, the topic of this thread is Oregon’s Transportation Planning Rule. Currently, thoughtful people with different points of view are discussing how Oregon might plan its transportation system better. I think most thoughtful people acknowledge that Oreogn faces real transportation challenges and that how we currently plan our transportation system isn’t perfect. But specifically how can we do better?

    If you focus your passion more on the issues than on the other people posting views, and if you aim for constructive suggestions, I am sure your comments will be more appreciated.

    Again, thank you for your interest and passion.

  16. Ross,

    I’m not asking for freeways everywhere. Where did this come from? My whole point is the time wasted not planning for Springwater and Damascus/Boring (new employment centers). This means that people who want good paying jobs (me) have to go to Washington County for the next five to ten years.

    The State and Metro are playing CATCH UP to shorten that long leadtime. It’s pretty simple.

    Per surveys (high tech companies are required to do these surveys for TriMet and others) of Intel employees, 25 percent commute from outside Washington County, that is 3,525 employees roughly. Thats just one employer. We have a major distribution of jobs issue. I’ve been dealing with it since 1984 by moving close to my employers’ site most of the time. Now I wish to live close to family and MAX.

    Again, I’m saying that the infrastructure for Springwater and Damascus/Boring is going to come online too slowly. THEY ARE FAST TRACKING IT.

    Do you get it yet?


  17. “Do you get it yet?”


    “My whole point is the time wasted not planning for Springwater and Damascus/Boring (new employment centers).”

    The decision of where to have employment centers in Damascus hasn’t really been made yet. The decision to include Damascus in the UGB is relatively recent. What do you think should be done about it now?

    “Again, I’m saying that the infrastructure for Springwater and Damascus/Boring is going to come online too slowly. THEY ARE FAST TRACKING IT”

    Those sound like contradictgory statements to me. But I agree there needs to be caution in not pretending jobs are going to be created in Damascus instantly and then have the transportation system feeding commuters to the rest of the region instead of feeding job creation in Damscus.

  18. Ross,

    Regarding jobs in Damascus and elsewhere in burgeoning metropolitan communities: METRO seems to be assuming that most people are going to live close to their job. Did the Silicon Forest attract people mainly from Hillsboro? Then why is the Sunset Highway still jammed? Why do so many commuters come from Clark County to Portland?

    I agree people would like to live close to their job; but people become employed elsewhere-and then commute- for a plentitude of reasons. With predictions of 60-70,00 new people in Damascus I’ve been thinking, “That’s as big as Salem (was)! And as these satellite regions of the Portland Metro area grow, the city of Portland will be impacted, too. We are at the greatest juncture of transit needs since the decision to curtail the freeway system, in the 1970’s. I don’t think it is a time for certain Portlanders to be pushing pet projects-as Vera Katz was prone to do. There needs to be a balance of solutions to meet these projected needs. The problem is: they should have been determined yesterday. I spent from 1998-2002 in Seattle (and there is a conundrum if there ever was one) and, so, have been truant on Portland issues.

  19. Ross,

    Have you been to the Springwater meetings? I have been to a few. Metro and Gresham have created the codes and zoning for Springwater to be a employment center (15,000 jobs are projected).

    Have you been to the Damascus/Boring meetings? I have been to only two. The Clackamas County website has great archives and current status of the concept plans that are now down to four (this is what we did for Springwater, many plans down to one plan). Metro and Clackamas County have made it clear and the citizens in agreement, there will be employment centers in Damascus/Boring (don’t know the job projections there, but the acreage is two to three times more than Springwater).

    The Rock Creek Employment Area is even farther along (its at Hwy 212 and 122nd near Sunnyside and Happy Valley). It is being looked at for medical focus.

    The zoning is being done now. But without the infrastructure (streets, mass transit, fire stations), the land will sit idle. Alot of land sat idle in the Silicon Forest until the 1990’s. What helps get The Forest going was access to Hwy 26 to move commerce.

    In Gresham and the new city of Damascus there is no modern highway system to give employers and developers any reason to spend capital there.

    Why did Damascus voter approve incorporation? They have known since 2002 that the employment centers and new residents were coming. They have done a outstanding job! Damascus is moving fast on their planning. The place is so beautiful and what they have done will create one awesome addition to our region.

    Springwater is also getting raves for its convergence of environmental protection, sustainable development, and job creation possibilities. But without infrastructure in the planning/designing stage, no one will move there to create the jobs.

    I’ve mentioned open source software development for Springwater and now also believe that a sound studio (Oregon doesn’t have one yet!) could work as industries that can move in now to Springwater, once it is approved by the City Council (scheduled vote is Novemeber 1).


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