Portland-area voters may get an official look at a likely $7 billion transportation package come November in the form of bond requests, but Metro Council hopes to have the package of projects sorted out this spring.
With a Transportation Funding Task Force still working to prioritize transportation corridors, projects and funding solutions, the Metro Council will get the final say on what items make the final cut of any package and bond proposal and how to fund the effort. No matter the final package, though, expect it to have a mix of projects aimed at safer streets, improved transit and with a truly regional view of the mix and style of projects.
The task force looked at a variety of different project types and scopes. Any project that reached overwhelming support from the task force — many of which were unanimously supported — achieved tier one status and were forwarded to the Metro Council for consideration. The task force will continue to support the council as both groups work through a more refined list of what a final package includes.
The focus on creating a regionally connected transportation grid, with a focus on transit, signifies a major tenant of the early process. “Our travel patterns stitch us together as one region with common interests and needs,” writes the task force. “So, it’s no surprise that the task force recommendations reflect a truly regional funding measure, with investments across the metropolitan area will create a more reliable, safer regional transportation system no matter where we live, work or travel — and no matter how we reach the places we need to go.”
The council has named 13 corridors as key places to focus the project’s funding on. Figuring out how that funding will work, though, remains part of the planning. Bonds will almost certainly enter the equation to pay for a hefty portion of the project, although Metro does believe both federal and state financial sources can fund significant portions, especially when it comes to some of the safety projects included in the plan. Additional ways to raise money include the idea of a higher vehicle registration fee, raised income tax on those earning more than $100,000 annually and an increase in payroll tax.
Metro will likely finalize the package’s projects by the end of spring. But with roughly $7 billion worth of projects already on the table, expect support to improve safety for the Tualatin Valley Highway, 82ndAvenue and McLoughlin Boulevard.
Transit, especially the region’s robust MAX light rail system, will certainly be part of the final plan, with a planned extension to Bridgeport Village and even potential further study on a tunnel under the Willamette River as two big-ticket items. Smaller light rail extensions are also on the table.
Plenty of other discussions remain about specific projects, whether near the Portland International Airport, in east Multnomah County, or elsewhere.
The entire suite of projects will continue to take shape over the next few months — as will potential funding mechanisms — and then Portland-area voters will get the final say come November.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.