Brown spares SW Capitol Hwy project in veto trifecta

$10 million project would widen and add sidewalks and bike paths

Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order aimed at expanding protections for immigrants in Oregon, February 2, 2017. (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (Portland Tribune Capital Bureau) – Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday reversed course on vetoing $2 million in funding for long-awaited safety upgrades on Capitol Highway in Southwest Portland.

An announcement Aug. 9 that the governor would scuttle the appropriation with a veto spawned outcry from the state’s congressional delegation, bicycle activists and local officials. Brown had said she intended to veto the line item because transportation projects should not be funded with lottery revenue.

“In the past week, I’ve received significant input from a wide range of constituencies since providing the veto notice,” Brown wrote in a letter, explaining her decision. “It’s clear that the City of Portland Southwest Capitol Highway Safety Improvements project is a good project and should be funded. In the interest of all who have worked so hard on this project, I will not veto this item.”

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The $10 million project would widen and add sidewalks and bike paths to a dangerous section of the highway between Garden Home and Taylors Ferry roads. Portland has dedicated $3.3 million to the project from the temporary 10-cent a gallon gas tax approved by city voters at the May 2016 election. The rest of the money will come from transportation system development charges.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who represents part of the area where the project is located, thanked the governor for reversing her decision.

“I’m glad that Governor Brown listened to the facts on the ground and decided not to follow through on her threats to veto this much-needed funding. The safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists on SW Capitol Highway would have been in jeopardy if she had decided to veto. I am grateful for the civic leaders, community members, and all who spoke in support of this project. Their efforts made the difference.” — Rep. Earl Blumenauer

The project “will make a huge difference for the people living in those communities who choose to walk and bike for transportation,” Burdick said. “Without sidewalks and paths, that area is not safe for them. This project will improve walkability and bicycling opportunities, and quite possibly save lives.”

The project’s completion hinges on state’s investment of $2 million, said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland.

“This project was carefully vetted and considered on its own merits by both chambers of the legislature,” said Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a former City Council member who was in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The council, Southwest Portland community leaders and others also urged Brown to not veto the state funding.

The money was part of House Bill 5006, this session’s so-called Christmas Tree bill, which includes funds for projects important to individual lawmaker’s respective districts.