While the Alliance has not taken a position on the payroll tax to fund projects identified in TriMet’s Future of Transit Project, it provided general input regarding the future of the region’s transit system. The Alliance is advocating for TriMet’s Future of Transit Project to give priority to improving connection to employment and commercial centers that would increase access to jobs, educational opportunities and services. Specifically, the Alliance said downtown should remain a focus point for transit lines and, in addition to downtown, access to other areas with high concentrations of employment such as industrial lands should be prioritized. The Alliance also urged TriMet to coordinate with local jurisdictions to align plans, streamline resources, alleviate congestion and better understand where business, employment and housing growth is likely to occur in order to determine where additional transit capacity is needed. Read the letter. (February 2015)
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The city of Portland is working on updating its Transportation System Plan (TSP) as part of its Comprehensive Plan. The TSP will guide future transportation infrastructure investments over the next 20 years. The Alliance is advocating for the plan to reflect the importance of a strong and efficient multi-modal transportation system for a prosperous economy. The Alliance also said the plan should prioritize projects that have the greatest return for the least investment, address disproportionate funding levels among modes and eliminate the bias toward active transportation, and include freight infrastructure and access to industrial lands for middle-income jobs. Read the testimony and the letter. (February 2015)
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The city of Portland convened a task force to review and evaluate the service performance and regulatory framework of Portland’s private for-hire transportation industry. Alliance staff is participating on the task force, which will provide guidance and recommendations to Portland City Council regarding new developments in the industry, including the entry of “Transportation Network Companies” such as Uber and Lyft. The first meeting was held in January and the task force will meet during the next six months. (February 2015)
Mayor Charlie Hales has delayed plans to hold a non-binding advisory vote in May to learn voter preferences regarding revenue options for the proposed Street Fund, following meetings with Governor John Kitzhaber and Speaker Tina Kotek. The governor and speaker informed the mayor and Commissioner Steve Novick that a statewide transportation package would be a top priority in the 2015 legislative session, and the mayor decided to call off the advisory election to give the Legislature time to act. Earlier, the city had backed away from the last Street Fund residential funding proposal after it became clear there was not sufficient support for it on City Council. A new advisory election date has not been set. (January 2015)
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In partnership with the Value of Jobs Coalition, the Alliance and the Port of Portland released an update to a 2005 Cost of Congestion report. The study analyzes the state’s dependence on a reliable transportation system to move goods, ensure access to labor and increase productivity. The new report highlights that additional transportation investment is needed to maintain Oregon’s ability to remain competitive in a global economy. This report identifies the current economic foundation of the state and examines how congestion and transportation barriers affect Oregon’s economy, jobs and productivity. It also analyzes the impact of increased transportation investment on the state’s economy and jobs. Key report findings include:
Read the full report at www.valueofjobs.com.
On January 6, the Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit will bring together more than 1,000 Oregon business, civic and elected leaders to address the state’s top economic issues and opportunities. In the segment of the program devoted to infrastructure, the Alliance will release an update to its groundbreaking report released in 2005 on the real costs of increased road traffic to businesses in Oregon. The report will help shape a transportation package in the upcoming 2015 legislative session. Other segments of the summit will feature the Oregon Business Plan’s top three priorities this year, including connecting education to careers and skilled job openings going unfilled in Oregon; strengthening rural economies by capitalizing on Oregon's unique advantages in food and forest products; and investing in infrastructure that allows our communities and businesses to prosper and connect with the global marketplace. More information and registration.
The Alliance continues to stay engaged in the city of Portland’s proposal to raise new funds for street maintenance, urging leaders to adopt a plan that does not include a new, city-only personal income tax.
Throughout this discussion, the Alliance has said it is willing to work with the city on a revenue proposal, but the organization has strongly opposed creation of a personal income tax as the residential funding mechanism in the expected street-maintenance ordinance. If the city moves forward with a personal income tax proposal, the Alliance has maintained that there should be a public vote to approve it. The Alliance and its business partners commissioned a public opinion poll which found that 77 percent of Portland voters also believe that an unprecedented personal income tax in the city of Portland should be voted on.
In terms of revenue from the business community, the Alliance has indicated it is generally ok with the proposed business fee schedule, although it has advocated for more relief for small business owners and clarification of other issues. Finally, the Alliance has told city leaders the fee schedule and the intended use of the new revenues should be locked down in the Portland City Charter, and voters should have the opportunity to determine if the program should be renewed in six years.
The Alliance board and staff leadership have been in regular communications with Mayor Charlie Hales and other Council leaders, and it now appears they are moving toward developing a fee-based proposal rather than an income tax. A vote on the final plan has been postponed until January 14, 2015, with a first reading expected on January 7, 2015. The Alliance will remain active on this issue until it is resolved. Read the Alliance President & CEO’s blog post for more about its position on the issue. (December 2014)
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The Alliance’s Transportation Committee heard from Portland Bureau of Transportation staff about their Transportation System Plan (TSP) Update and project selection criteria. The TSP prioritizes transportation projects for investment and informs transportation policies in the city of Portland’s comprehensive plan. A subcommittee was created to review the project selection criteria, and it has made several recommendations for improvement, including the need to include freight criteria that would prioritize freight. The Alliance testified before the Planning and Sustainability Commission about concerns over the pervasive bias toward active transportation and the lack of consideration of freight and the efficient movement of goods in the TSP and the comprehensive plan. (December 2014)
On November 10, Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick released their Portland Street Fund proposal, which aims to raise revenue for paving maintenance and safety of our roads. While the proposed business fee is far better than the plan issued last spring, the overall package falls short of several criteria established by the Alliance at the beginning of this discussion. Specifically, the proposal includes a new personal income tax, has no sunset and devotes insufficient revenues to paving maintenance. The Alliance testified in opposition to the package at Portland City Council last Thursday and has informed the mayor that if a referral emerges, the Alliance will be part of that effort if the package does not change. For more information about the Alliance’s concerns, read the President & CEO’s blog. (November 2014)
CALL TO ACTION: If your business operates in the city of Portland, and/or if you live here, please contact members of council with your thoughts around this proposal. Please tell them that creating a brand new personal income tax in the city of Portland is a major proposal that should have voter review before it is implemented:
Mayor Charlie Hales | firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Steve Novick | email@example.com
Commissioner Amanda Fritz | firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Nick Fish | email@example.com
Commissioner Dan Saltzman | firstname.lastname@example.org
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In comments about the city of Portland’s Transportation Plan and the proposed Comprehensive Plan, the Alliance has advocated for ensuring the plan to adequately and objectively considers all modes of transportation, including freight, auto, bicycle and transit. Currently, auto- and freight-oriented projects are only eligible for two of the nine proposed criteria that will be used to evaluate specific projects. The Alliance also recommends adding transportation project selection criteria related to improving the economy, managing congestion and traffic flows, evaluating the number of people benefitted or affected by a project and minimizing projects that reduce capacity of the existing system. Read the letter. (November 2014)
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The Alliance has been participating on the city’s transportation user fee business work group to refine the proposal, successfully advocating for a new fee structure that is significantly lower than what would have originally been imposed on business. Under the new iteration, the amount businesses will pay is significantly reduced, ranging from $2.50 to $120 per month. (A final proposal has not yet been sent to City Council). In addition, the Alliance is advocating for prioritizing revenues to reduce the $91 million backlog in paving projects, a defined project list, a six-year sunset clause, and a dedicated transportation fund to ensure that the revenue raised will be used for its original and intended purpose and not used to fund other priorities outside of the original scope.
There is, however, consideration for a progressive income tax on the residential side, with high income earners potentially paying up to $200/month (other proposals include caps of $20/month or $100/month). An income tax based approach for the residential portion also means state and federal retirement income, such as PERS, will not be taxed. The Alliance continues to raise concerns about such a proposal as the transportation system has always been paid for through user fees, such as the residential fee originally proposed by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick. The Alliance continues to engage with the city in direct negotiations and will advocate for our identified priorities. Read the Alliance’s communications with Portland City Council regarding the transportation user fee. (October 2014)
The Alliance has been involved in discussions regarding a revamped city of Portland transportation fee proposal. The Alliance is advocating for limiting the impact of a new fee on businesses, and is also asking for a sunset clause, a focus on deferred street paving and prioritized project lists. Significant progress has been made over the last few months, including a new mechanism for the nonresidential fee that substantially reduces the monthly impact on businesses. The nonresidential fee structure has changed to a per entity fee based on the type and size of business. Under the most recent proposals, the monthly impact for businesses has gone from potentially thousands to a range of $2.50 to $120. As additional details continue to be negotiated, the Alliance will urge for assessments for both businesses and residents, as well as additional accountability mechanisms. (September 2014)
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The Alliance has played a key role in encouraging City Council to slow down on a proposal to create a new fee to fund street maintenance and safety work. After originally proposing to vote on the new fee in early June, just weeks after the details were made public, Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick announced that they would postpone final action on the new $50 million fee program until November to get more public input. The Alliance is also encouraging City Council to slow down with the proposed city charter amendment so that it can be considered as part of an overall package. The Alliance believes this significant and complex new fee deserves more of a conversation, and it is premature to constrain the use of funds that have yet to be created as proposed in the charter amendment. The Alliance has been consistent in its support of the goal of well-maintained and safe streets and has offered to work cooperatively with the city and other stakeholders to determine the need, how and by what amount additional revenue is raised, and the detail of how the funds will be spent. Read the letter.
City Council is hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss the non-residential portion of the transportation fee proposal Wednesday, June 24, at 8 a.m. at Venture Portland, 1125 SE Madison St., Suite 112. They will host a second Town Hall meeting which will address the fee more generally on Wednesday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente, 3704 N Interstate Ave. Alliance members are encouraged to attend to ask questions and speak about their concerns with the proposal. (June 2014)
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Under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is proposing a street maintenance fee for both businesses and residents to raise revenue for transportation projects. PBOT is considering two different fee scenarios for households, and an estimated fee structure for different types of businesses and the number of trips they are estimated to generate, a standard used by the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick indicated they may bring the plan to city council for a vote as early as June. The Alliance has several questions about the potential new fee, and is urging the city to slow down to allow for broader public discussion about a potential new cost to Portland residents. The Alliance has convened a task force to look further into the issue. More information about the city's proposed street fee.
The Alliance is advocating for a proposal led by Transportation for America, a nation-wide transportation advocacy group, to raise $30 billion to restore the Federal Highway Trust fund and support other transportation programs that spur innovation and promote local control. There are variety of funding options considered in the proposal, including increasing the federal gas tax; replacing the existing per-gallon tax with a sales tax; introducing a fee on oil barrel purchases and adding a sales tax to fuel purchases. The Alliance also expressed support for Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s UPDATE Act as legislation that is consistent with this proposal. This investment is critical to improving the region’s transportation infrastructure and ensuring our long-term economic competitiveness and growth. Read the letter.
The Alliance, Port of Portland and Women in Transportation (WTS) hosted a talk with Adie Tomer, senior research associate and associate fellow at the Brookings Institution this month. Adie presented about the impact of international trade and transportation infrastructure on economic development in metro regions. View Adie’s presentation. (April 2014)
As the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) begins the 2014/15 budget development process, the Alliance is urging PBOT to support two related special appropriation requests. The first request is for $650,000 per year for two years to help fund preparation of a Draft Environment Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Southwest Corridor High Capacity Transit Project. The second is for $100,000 to be allocated to Portland Export and Freight Strategy Implementation. Both of these projects will help support transportation infrastructure, a key part of a strong and robust economy. Read the letter.
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Last week at the Oregon Leadership Summit, Governor John Kitzhaber and other legislative leaders including House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli and House Republican Leader Mike McLane listed the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project as one of the top priorities for the 2014 legislative session. Senate President Peter Courtney has agreed to hold a special hearing in January that would provide the outline for an Oregon-led, bi-state project and frame the changes necessary to existing law to allow the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to move forward with an Oregon-led project. An investment grade analysis of the project’s finances is expected to be completed by State Treasurer Ted Wheeler in January. Assuming that analysis is positive, the project will then have met all the criteria necessary for a legislative decision on whether to move forward with an Oregon-led project to secure federal funding. The Federal Transit Administration recently confirmed that $800 million in light rail construction funds are still available for the project unless another project claims the funding before the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project moves forward. (December 2013)
Legislative leaders have indicated that the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project (also referred to as the Columbia River Crossing) will likely be addressed in the February 2014 session. Federal officials have indicated that they are still committed to the project and will hold the $800 million in federal funds for the project for as long as possible. The Alliance is continuing to work with partners to advocate for moving the project forward. (November 2013)
During the past month, the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project (also referred to as the Columbia River Crossing) received a number of key sign-offs to keep the phased approach moving forward. The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration both issued letters indicating the project would not need to go through a lengthy and costly redo of its environmental impact statement. After the State of Washington’s decision not to approve funding for the project, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber directed his transportation staff to analyze the possibility of phasing the project, moving forward with the bridge, light rail and Oregon interchanges and placing the Washington improvements in a later phase. The federal approvals mean this phased approach can move forward.
In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a permit for the project, a critical step on the federal approval process. The permit clears the way for the project to apply for an $800 million grant for the construction of the light rail and a federal loan program to construct the bridge.
The Clark County Washington transit authority C-Tran approved a measure outlining how transit agency will address the construction, operation and maintenance of the light rail portion of the project. The approval was necessary before the project could submit its application for federal transit construction funds.
In Oregon, I-5 Bridge project staff is working toward a set of hearings in the coming weeks in preparation for taking up the issue in Salem. The Legislature must modify its previous approval of the project to reflect the Oregon-only approach for the project to become eligible for federal funding. While federal officials have assured the project that it is on the top of their list for funding, other projects are also competing for those dollars and it’s important for Oregon to quickly approve state matching dollars to ensure the federal resources aren’t lost to another region. (October 2013)
The Alliance expressed its concern regarding the city of Portland’s proposed “road diet” project impacting SW Barbur Blvd. The project would eliminate one auto lane on SW Barbur Blvd. to accommodate buffered bike lanes and pedestrian pathways in each direction, ultimately serving fewer commuters and impacting not just Portland but also other municipalities served by Highway 99W. The Alliance raised these concerns in a letter to Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, urging them to work with the State Department of Transportation (ODOT) to identify and fix specific areas that present safety concerns. The Alliance will continue to track this issue and advocate for a transportation project that supports our economic development potential and the region’s overall livability. Read the letter >>
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a letter September 4 agreeing to a request by the Portland Business Alliance and the Columbia River Crossing Coalition to conduct an expedited review of the revised I-5 bridge replacement project. The review will examine a phased project that would construct the Oregon portion of the project and the bridge and light rail improvements in the first phase and defer the Washington improvements until a later time frame.
“Given the current situation, an Oregon-managed bi-state project merits further investigation and I’ve directed WSDOT to do a thorough review of its feasibility,” Gov. Inslee said in the letter. “Everyone can agree that the problem has not gone away,” Inslee added, noting that, after 16 years of planning, engineering and public involvement, “it’s critical that we find a path to move forward and replace this bridge.” Read the letter >>
The letter comes on the heels of an announcement this week that the project had reached a mitigation agreement with the last of the three up river businesses that would be impacted by the bridge. The agreement with Thompson Metal Fab allowed the project to submit its application to the US Coast Guard for a permit to construct the project.
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