SALEM, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Legislators on Monday announced a blueprint for raising $8.2 billion over the next decade to pay for projects to relieve congestion and maintain roads and bridges.
The plan represents the first comprehensive framework for crafting a transportation package this year.
“We are running the most transparent transportation process I think this building has ever seen, so now it’s time for public input,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “We still have plenty of time to work out the details, but this is an important turning point in terms of having specifics out there for people to respond to.”
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The money for the plan would come from a combination of hikes in the gas tax and registration and license fees, tolls and new taxes on payroll and purchases of new vehicles and bicycles.
The plan identifies a few specific projects to ease congestion, but other projects would be prioritized by the Oregon Transportation Commission. Specific projects would:
• Add lanes on Interstate 5 near Portland’s Rose Quarter from Interstate 84 to Interstate 405.
• Add northbound and southbound lanes on Highway 217 through the Portland metro area.
• Widen Interstate 205 to six lanes from Oregon City to Stafford Road.
• Widen and seismically reinforce Interstate 205’s Abernethy Bridge.
The plan raises an average of about $800 million per year in additional transportation funding. A transportation package that failed in 2015 would have raised considerably less, about $300 million a year.
The money would come from increases in the gas tax and vehicle fees and a set of new taxes over the next 10 years, including:
• Gas tax increase from 30 cents to 44 cents.
• Tiered increase in title and registration fees, with higher increases for fuel-efficient vehicles, which pay less in gas taxes.
• Statewide payroll tax of one-tenth of 1 percent to pay for mass transit.
• Tolls to be determined.
• Bicycle excise tax of 5 percent.
• Dealer privilege tax of 1 percent on new vehicle purchases.
The state spends about $1.3 billion a year on transportation system maintenance and upgrades. This proposal would bring that amount up to about $2.1 billion.
The proposal came on the same day a KATU-commissioned poll indicated tepid interest in raising the gas tax, which is the mechanism for funding transportation in Oregon.
Forty-nine percent of 675 adult respondents indicated a gas tax hike was a step in the wrong direction, while 30 percent showed strong support for an increase, according to the poll conducted last month by Survey USA.
The 14 lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization will convene on Wednesday, May 10, to discuss potential changes to the proposal before it is written into legislation. Public hearings on the proposal would likely be held in June.