Is there a Silver Lining in the Transportation Bill?

The Oregon Environmental Council, which opposed the transportation bill along with other environment organizations, nonetheless has published a plus/minus analysis on the bill and finds about a half dozen positives:

  • ODOT is required to develop a “least-cost planning” model, in consultation with local governments and metropolitan planning organizations, as a decision-making tool in the development of plans and projects at both the state and regional level.
  • The Oregon Transportation Commission is required to review and update the selection criteria for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program and to include such criteria as (1) Fosters livable communities by demonstrating that the investment reinforces or does not undermine compact urban development; (2) Enhances the value of transportation projects through designs and development that reflect environmental stewardship and community sensitivity; and (3) Is consistent with infrastructure plans and reinforces the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
  • ODOT is required to prepare an “efficient fee study” that must consider actual costs users impose on the highway system, including the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The tax credit for pay-as-you-drive auto insurance has been extended.
  • A congestion pricing pilot program in the Portland metro area must be undertaken within 36 months.
  • ODOT is required to adopt rules to incorporate environmental performance standards into design and construction of all state highway construction projects, including local projects funded by the department.
  • Medium-speed electric vehicles may operate on roads posted up to 45 mph, and the state is required to work with private firms to install electric motor vehicle recharging stations at roadside rest areas.

I’d love to see the least-cost requirement applied to the CRC ASAP.

23 responses to “Is there a Silver Lining in the Transportation Bill?”

  1. The only thing that worries me about a least-cost requirement is that there is the potential for crap infrastructure to come out of the deal. Certainly in cases like the CRC, it might be good, because it will probably get us a smaller bridge, but at the same time, it might be bad, because it might also get us a stoic, utilitarian, ugly bridge. Likewise with the Willamette River transit/bike/ped bridge – I would hope it wouldn’t land us with a plain, uninteresting bridge (and perhaps one with less capacity), because they deem it the minimum required cost.

  2. I’m interested in seeing what comes out of the congestion pricing pilot program. Is it really a mandate?

  3. The only good Willamette River transit/bike/ped bridge would be invisible. As in never built.
    It will far surpass the WES and all other boondoggles if it is built.
    Devouring countless millions we can’t afford, providing a tiny fraction of the embellished benefits promised, while triggering additional layers of wasteful spending on Urban Renewal schemes that flop.

  4. John,

    Or, it could help with the bike/ped congestion over the Hawthorne bridge. The lack of a center railing on the Hawthorne can make a bicycle crash fatal, and there apparently isn’t room to add one.

    I’m absolutely willing to settle for ugly bridges if we get better transportation facilities for bike/ped/transit.

  5. “ODOT is required to develop a “least-cost planning” model, in consultation with local governments and metropolitan planning organizations, as a decision-making tool in the development of plans and projects at both the state and regional level.”

    Applied to light rail and streetcars, this must include the capitol costs which include digging up the streets for rails, the environmental aspects of producing the rails, the environmental effects of construction including moving dirt with excavation equipment, the cost of relocating infrastructure to utilities, the costs of increasing electrical energy capacity, the costs of the vehicles themselves, the costs of disruption to businesses, the economic impacts, etc. Additionally, it must include the costs of subsidizing operations – and if rail transit is touted as a development tool, the costs of taxpayer subsidies and property tax abatements to property developers.

    Least cost planning must also compare various mode options like streetcars vs trolley buses and thereby eliminate mode first in transit planning. Moreover, least cost planning must take into consideration the number of users to identify the cost per user for dollars spent again by comparing mode use. A good example of the latter is the Sellwood Bridge replacement. 30,000 plus cars a day along with the positive economic impact motor vehicle users have on the economy vs a far reaching projected number of bicyclists using the bridge in the future that would be less than a quarter of the number of cars having little impact on the economy does not justify rationing motor vehicle capacity while allocating more than half of the deck space to non-motor vehicle uses.

    Additionally, by comparing the number of mode users to the cost of infrastructure may also have an impact on the CRC. Without stacking the deck for ridership numbers, can light rail really be justified? I doubt the bicycle infrastructure can be justified given the number of bicycle crossings vs the cost of providing the bicycle infrastructure if and when the costs are isolated and actually disclosed to the public.

    “ODOT is required to prepare an “efficient fee study” that must consider actual costs users impose on the highway system”

    Since there is a cost to constructing and even some costs to maintaining bicycle infrastructure, and since the deadbeat users of bicycle infrastructure freeload paying no direct fee or tax to offset the actual costs; done thoroughly encompassing all modes of transport; the obligation to pay for bicycle infrastructure ought to impose fees or taxes directly on the now deadbeat users thereby creating some sort of bicycle tax, bicycle license and/or bicycle registration fee. On the flip side, such an all mode study could be socially engineered as is currently done by the usual subjects thereby politically sweeping under the auto mat the costs of providing bicycle infrastructure so bicyclists can continue to freeload.

  6. Terry Parker:

    The analysis regarding mass transit is much more rigorous than highway/road projects. Most new road projects traditionally have only had to have an EIS, and other analysis was way less important.

    All of the light rail construction projects have had rigorous EIS statements, including energy output from construction.

    Your arguments are tiresome and incorrect.

  7. Road and highway projects are *not* covered by user fees.

    Nope. Well, OK, many might be but there’s also many that aren’t. For example, Sunnybrook Blvd. and some other streets in Clackamas were funded by urban renewal, many street projects in Washington County are funded by property taxes, I believe Salem put some general fund money into streets and elsewhere certain road projects are funded by sales taxes.

    This doesn’t cover the things that are actually related to the making and use of gasoline but are not paid for by fuel taxes, such as oil defense and pollution cleanup & effects.

  8. Jason McHuff wrote: many street projects in Washington County are funded by property taxes

    Using a property tax program that has had repeated, overwhelming voter support each and every time it was put before voters.

    After the defeat of South|North, TriMet and Metro have taken great strides to ensure that multi-million transit projects NEVER see a ballot box.

  9. G said: “Road and highway projects are *not* covered by user fees”

    State, Federal and local gasoline and motor vehicle fuel taxes, weight mile taxes on trucks, and vehicle registration/license fees that exceed the administrative costs are all road and highway user fees. Moreover, an EIS is an EIS and major highway projects require an EIS. Missing from the EIS requirement are small projects like adding curb extensions on city streets that add congestion and increase fuel consumption for motorists. What is tiresome is that dollars for transit and bicycle projects are poached from motorist paid road and highway user fees (especially at the federal level) while only about a quarter of transit operation costs are recovered from passengers through the fare box, and deadbeat bicyclists still freeload off of other road users.

  10. And we all pay for the roads through general taxes–property taxes locally, income taxes at the state and federal level.

  11. I was thinking about this issue yesterday, and have come to the conclusion that we should get rid of those freeloaders using the county library system, and start charging people for using city parks. There are probably other good opportunities for user fees that I’ve missed.

  12. The libraries are clearly undercutting the private sector by offering broadband Internet access to library “patrons” … if those libraries didn’t spend all that money providing “free” access to the Internet, 100% unsubsidized telecommunications companies like Comcast, Clear, Qwest, Verizon, etc., wouldn’t be facing such a dire financial picture. Then, broadband prices would come down to where the poor could afford 100mbit access at pennies per month, rather than the many tens of dollars we free citizens must pay now because of the librarian largess.

  13. Jeff/Chris/Bob–

    don’t be so silly. The libertarian contingent might take you seriously. (And apparently, a telco is suing a North Carolina city in order to get the local city-run broadband operation shut down; on the basis that it represents unfair competition to the private sector).

  14. Info on Washington County Urban Road Maintenance:

    Tigard Street Maintenance Fees:

    Portland Street Maintenance Fees:

    Beaverton Street Maintenance Fees:

    These are non-user fees. You pay them regardless of whether you use the roads/sidewalks or not and regardless of how much damage you cause to them (studded tires).

  15. Aaron –

    FFYI, the Portland street maintenance fee was a proposal and isn’t an implemented program.

  16. Anyone want to guess the over-under for number of times Terry has been confronted with and then ignores, in place of vacuous rhetoric about “deadbeats” and freeloaders,” a) the fact that general fund dollars pay for road construction, such as the $8 billion Congress injected into the Highway Trust fund last year; and b) that externalities caused by motorists, such as the Big Pipe needing to be nearly twice a big due to motor vehicle-related runoff, are also subsidized by society at large?

    Is 200 a reasonable guess? Anyone want to bet against that number increasing to 201 in the next 8 hours?

  17. In Portland, property taxes do NOT pay for roads. This can and has been verified with officials at PDOT. The exception is in urban renewal districts where the taxes on increased property values due to development pays for transportation infrastructure in general. The biggest benefactors are I-Max and the Portland Streetcar. Additionally, streetcar operations including the free rides in Fareless Square are subsidized by raiding motorist paid parking meter revenues.

    Likewise, in Oregon, general and income taxes do NOT pay for roads either. At the Federal level, motorist paid gasoline and fuel taxes are the primary source of revenue that makes up the Federal Highway Trust Fund – from which dollars are siphoned off that pay for transit and bicycle projects.

    Occasionally, one time funds outside the regular aforementioned user fees are allocated for road projects – the biggest being the Federal stimulus package (designed to create jobs) which also includes funding for other modes of transport. To maintain their freeloading ways, deadbeat bicyclists would have people believe the myth that the lions share of funding for roads comes from these one time funds and sources other than motorist paid user fees. In Oregon, this is completely untrue! If that were the case, the gasoline tax could be totally eliminated and motor vehicle license, registration fees would only cover the administration costs, and bicyclists and transit advocates would not be clamoring to get more dollars from motorist paid taxes and fees. The difference between using the services at the library and using the road is that the library services are free to all while using the road requires discriminatory fees for some users while others are allowed to freeload. So if bicyclists can ride free, then too should motoring be free – along with parking, the use of all public golf courses, public swimming pools, public tennis centers, etc, etc, etc. And Chris, your comment about making the Benson Bubblers coin-operated is not too far off. There is a bill currently being discussed in the state legislature that would tax water use. Coin operated public toilets wouldn’t be too far off either.

  18. Terry, So Portland makes up about a fifth of the metro area and yet is the only one you point to. What about Washington Count (3 million is a lot of money) or Tigard or Beaverton. Cuckold libertarians just enjoy cherry-picking. Until they stop being so cuckold they’ll never be listened to. I play plenty of taxes to support the roads including property taxes, gas taxes (yes I drive too), registration fees, federal income tax, etc. The taxes I’m asked to pay I pay. Deadbeats don’t pay what they are supposed to pay. Find a better word.

  19. Aaron W. said: “Deadbeats don’t pay what they are supposed to pay.”

    Sam Adams used the term “cost of service” to justify increasing parking meter rates on public streets that motorists already pay gas taxes to use, and where some of the parking meter fees are raided to subsidize Portland Streetcar operations. There is also a “cost of service” to provide specialized bicycle infrastructure. Until a bicycle tax, bicycle license and/or registration fee is implemented and accepted by bicyclists to pay that “cost of service”, the word “deadbeat” fits.

  20. Terry, As I’ve said before, I don’t imagine we will see eye-to-eye on this subject but I hope that we can keep the discussion civil. Calling me a “deadbeat” doesn’t make me particularly eager to read your responses let alone be open to your ideas.

    I’ve also said I’m not opposed to fees, etc. Again, I pay what I’m asked by the government to pay. Here is an example of “cost of service” increase specifically for bike related infrastructure.

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