Many of greater Portland’s busiest roads were originally built by the State of Oregon to connect rural farms to the markets where their products were sold. It made sense, back then, for the state to own and maintain them. But now, many of these roads have become bustling urban streets used by commuters who travel by car, bus, or bicycle. The shift in use is evident even in the names by which these streets are now commonly known: Few think of McLoughlin Boulevard as Oregon Route 99E, for example, or of Lombard Street as U.S. 30 Bypass. Tell someone to meet you on Oregon Route 26, and they may not know to find you on Powell Boulevard.
Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan has long recognized the need to take better care of these roadways, and given the change in use, it may now be better if these roads are maintained by the cities or counties they primarily serve. This would require transferring ownership from the state to these jurisdictions via a process known as jurisdictional transfer.
Last year Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation launched a study to help determine which corridors are best suited to transfer ownership from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to a major city or county. The findings of that study have now been presented to the Metro Council, which accepted them this Thursday, December 17.
The study, which was developed with input from several regional partners, provides a toolkit for state, regional, and local jurisdiction leaders to identify promising candidate roadways for transfer and to facilitate successful transfer of roadway ownership. In addition to ODOT, partners in this study include the various jurisdictions that would benefit from a transfer, as well as the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC), the Metropolitan Transportation Advisory Committee (MTAC), the County Coordinating Committees, and direction from the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT).
Among other findings, the study identified eleven state-owned highway segments that could be considered for a jurisdictional transfer and addressed some of the opportunities and barriers to transferring the routes. These roads have significant needs and deficiencies, such as pedestrian and bicycle facility gaps, poor pavement conditions, or inadequate safety infrastructure. Many of them also travel adjacent to areas with high concentrations of people of color, people with low incomes, or people who speak English as a second language.
These characteristics make them more promising candidates for transfer to local jurisdictions. In some cases, there is current interest from the local jurisdictions to pursue transfer in attempts to align existing and future land uses with community interest. An investment in a jurisdictional transfer is not just a transportation investment, but also a community investment.