The Metro Council voted on Thursday to adopt a 2023 Regional Transportation Plan for greater Portland. The plan identifies urgent and long-term transportation needs as well as the investments to address those needs with the estimated funds the region expects to have available in coming decades to do that work. Metro leads an update to the plan every five years with input from the community, businesses and other local governments.
The regional transportation plan helps advance greater Portland’s shared climate, safety, equity, economic development, and mobility goals. The plan is required for projects in greater Portland to receive federal transportation funding.
To learn more about the plan, sign up for updates and read all related documents, visit the 2023 Regional Transportation Plan website.
In accordance with Metro’s Strategic Plan to Advance Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the process to develop the updated plan engaged thousands of community members across greater Portland, with additional efforts to involve people of color and other underrepresented communities.
“I feel tremendously proud with the level of engagement and the number of workshops, the efforts that we’ve made to engage low-income and communities of color in a way that I feel unprecedented for this level of transportation policy and strategy to create a plan that reflects the needs of every corner of the region while acknowledging that there’s so much extra work to do,” said Metro Councilor Juan Carlos González.
This engagement elevated the transportation needs and priority investments of communities who have not been listened to or prioritized in historic governmental processes, a critical step toward reducing racial and economic disparities.
“We have the opportunity to move forward knowing that we are talking in good faith with community, and that extends to the work that we did to actually consult with Tribal Nations and making sure that their projects ended up in this project list as they wanted them,” added Councilor Christine Lewis.
In tandem with the work on equity, addressing the decades of harm done to communities of color by transportation investments, the plan looks to the biggest challenges for the decades ahead by putting into action Metro’s Climate Smart Strategy. The plan contains policy updates that address climate, investments in transit and recommends a more thorough analysis and tracking of climate-impacting pollution moving forward.
The 2023 Regional Transportation Plan also includes two significant policy updates: the Regional Mobility Policy and the High Capacity Transit Strategy. Each of these are important tools for implementing the 2040 Growth Concept – greater Portland’s roadmap for balancing urban growth, quality of life and the protection of farms and forestland, advancing the Climate Smart Strategy and achieving other regional goals.
The updated Regional Mobility Policy replaces the older “volume to capacity” approach that focused only on moving vehicles and will help the region prioritize long-delayed investments to make our major streets safer for all. The updated mobility policy is a critical step toward implementation of community plans and visions that call for the development of more housing, jobs, and services in designated growth areas across the region, and ensuring those areas and existing communities have improved access to safe and affordable transportation. Remaining work on the policy will be completed in collaboration with ODOT and cities and counties in the region next year before it is applied in local planning. The Oregon Department of Transportation will use this policy and the recently updated Oregon Transportation Plan as a starting point for the Oregon Highway Plan update, which will start later this year.
“The new approach to measuring mobility focuses on safety, accessibility and reliability for all the ways that people travel, rather than strictly on the number of vehicles moving along a roadway,” said Kim Ellis, Metro principal planner and project manager of the Regional Transportation Plan. “This more holistic, multimodal approach to managing our roadways will guide planning and project decisions moving forward and will be key to making our regional goals a reality.” Ellis emphasized that building agreement on the new policy was thanks to deep collaboration with the Oregon Department of Transportation and other regional partners and an attention to other regional priorities such as climate, transit access and safety for all modes of travel. Metro and ODOT staff will support city and county agencies as they start applying the policy in local planning.
The High Capacity Transit Strategy is critical for meeting the region’s shared goals for climate, equity, economy and mobility. High capacity transit is public transportation that moves a lot of people quickly and often – think MAX light rail or bus-only lanes. This type of transit carries more people, runs more frequently, makes fewer stops and travels at higher speeds. It also includes features on streets and at stations that make it more reliable, convenient and comfortable to use, such as upgraded lighting, real-time travel information, and bike and sidewalk access.
The updated strategy for investing in high capacity transit is nimble, flexible and cost effective, and sets the stage for new types of transit in our region; it creates a pipeline of transit projects that will help greater Portland be competitive for federal transit funds.
“This high capacity transit plan is an outgrowth of the efforts people have made over the last five years to say that we are going to do things differently,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson.
One key question throughout the development of the plan related to funding, climate and managing congestion has been around pricing, or tolling, on freeways. The plan provides policies for a regionally unified approach to pricing projects that are equitable, that reinvest revenues equitably and support regional goals and address diversion on local streets. The specific projects to implement pricing around the region will undergo additional planning and public process before construction begins.
The Metro Council voted to adopt the 2023 Regional Transportation Plan and 2023 High Capacity Transit Strategy following a formal recommendation of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee on Oct. 25 and the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation on Nov. 16. JPACT comprises 17 members that are elected officials or representatives of transportation agencies across the region and recommends transportation priorities and develops transportation plans for the region.
With this plan in place, greater Portland is set to address the most important challenges facing us in the coming decades. “This is the start of a conversation,” said Councilor González. “We’re already working on a work plan to make sure that we have the right accountability mechanisms for these large projects that will have a sizeable impact on our regional infrastructure. This is a step in the right direction.”
To stay informed on or get involved in future regional transportation planning projects, sign up for updates at oregonmetro.gov/subscribe.