Connect Oregon is an initiative to invest in air, rail, marine, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure to ensure Oregon’s transportation system is strong, diverse, and efficient. For the $427 million available through Connect Oregon I through VI (including CORA) there have been:
- 603 project applications received,
- 282 projects funded,
- $1.003 billion in grants and loans requested.
Important changes to Connect Oregon resulted from the passage of HB 2017 by the 2017 Legislature:
- Public transit projects are no longer included in Connect Oregon.
- The Connect Oregon Fund now has a portion of the new vehicle dealer privilege fee and the new $15 bicycle excise tax in addition to lottery-backed bonds as funding sources. The bicycle excise tax will only go towards bicycle/pedestrian projects.
- The Oregon Transportation Commission is directed to distribute Connect Oregon funds to four specific projects:
- Treasure Valley Intermodal Facility ($26 million).
- Rail expansion in East Beach Industrial Park at the Port of Morrow ($6.55 million).
- Brooks rail siding extension ($2.6 million).
- Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Facility ($25 million).
No competitive process at this time.
Because available funds must first go to the projects listed above, we do not anticipate that there will be funding available in the 2017-2019 biennium for a competitive Connect Oregon program like the ones we’ve had in the previous six versions of the program. After the four projects listed above have been funded, and if funding is available, we will announce next steps, such as for a competitive grant process that may occur in 2019-2021 or 2021-2023 biennia.
ODOT adopted a new permanent rule, effective on March 2018, to establish common, consistent criteria and timelines for project plans and plan review for the four dedicated projects listed above. Prior to reviewing competitive process projects under the newly created Part 1 and Part 2 of the Connect Oregon program, ODOT will establish new rules that implement HB 2017. The Connect Oregon Rules Advisory Committees for Freight Transportation, Pedestrian/Bicycle and Dedicated Projects were formed to draft these rules and submit for adoption by the OTC in Spring of 2019.
Connect Oregon projects are eligible for grants that cover up to 70 percent of project costs. A minimum 30 percent cash match is required from the recipient for all grant funded projects (except Class I Railroads which now have a 50 percent match). Projects eligible for funding from highway fund revenues that come primarily from state fuel taxes, vehicle title and registration fees, and heavy truck fees (section 3a, Article IX of the Oregon Constitution, the Highway Trust Fund), are not eligible for Connect Oregon funding.
If a highway or public road element is essential to the complete functioning of the proposed project, applicants are encouraged to work with their ODOT region, city, or county to identify the necessary funding sources.