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Oregon's next transportation conversation: How to dedicate funding for non-highway modes?
11/08/2011
Between ConnectOregon, the Recovery Act, and other local, state and federal funding, record levels of investments are being made in non-highway transportation modes.  However, the state has no way to sustain these investments, as there is no adequate, long-term, dedicated source of funding for non-highway modes.  The State Highway Fund is constitutionally dedicated to roads, and federal transportation dollars can’t fund rail projects or urban transit operations.  What’s more, non-highway modes are highly reliant on federal funds that are at significant risk of being cut, and ConnectOregon has been constrained by the state budget situation.
 
With this in mind, Governor Kitzhaber is convening a Non-Roadway Transportation Funding Working Group that will engage the State of Oregon, transportation providers and other stakeholders in a consensus driven conversation around the development and implementation of a plan to establish dedicated funding for non-roadway transportation projects and programs.  Governor Kitzhaber’s goal is to see if this group can identify a proposal for a sustainable funding source that is statutorily dedicated to investments in Oregon’s non-highway transportation needs.  Such funding sources are imperative to assure balanced, multimodal transportation services for people and goods.
 
The Working Group will consist of dozens of stakeholders representing diverse perspectives, including transit, ports, the environmental community, bicyclists, and legislators.  The Working Group will brainstorm possible funding sources, analyzing their financial and political feasibility and develop alternative strategies for funding non-highway transportation investment.  The group will identify and analyze alternative strategies used in other states and ideas identified by Governor Kulongoski 2008 Transportation Vision Committee, which also looked into this issue as it developed the proposal that became the 2009 Jobs and Transportation Act (HB 2001).  The group will also identify and analyze various transportation, land use and operation reform strategies being discussed nationwide and provide context for their applicability to Oregon.   
 
The project is being coordinated by Oregon Consensus, the state’s legislatively-created program for collaborative governance. Oregon Consensus will provide a neutral forum that ensures all members of the Working Group are heard.  Financial support for the project comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, through Smart Growth America, which is providing staff support.