“State of Good Repair”

This was a phrase I heard a lot at RailVolution last week. It came up on several panels and was an interesting contrast: we heard it mostly from folks in the East/Midwest operating long-established rail systems. We didn’t hear it from the West Coast cities where rail transit is still running on pretty new infrastructure.

The Secretary of Transportation for Massachusetts described a fire on the Red Line in Boston that was caused by nothing other than aging catenary wires.

Fundamentally there is not enough money to maintain all our infrastructure to a “state of good repair”. While this may not be an issue for TriMet (yet) it’s not new in Oregon, our highway system is in exactly this state of affairs.

And the East/West contrast among stakeholders is echoed locally between Portland and the outer suburbs. Washington and Clackamas counties are struggling to build infrastructure to keep up with growth, while Portland struggles to maintain its arterial streets. This makes assembling a regional funding package a challenge, because a package needs to be crafted to meet both of these very different needs.

But to plan for the future, how do we make sure that our region’s rail transit will also have sufficient maintenance funds to be in a “state of good repair” in the future. Are we building reserves now? (That’s a rhetorical question – we are not to a sufficient level). How can we?

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