Everyone knows that traffic is getting worse in the greater Portland region.
A new task force, appointed by Metro Council President Lynn Peterson and confirmed by the Metro Council on Thursday, aims to figure out what to do about it.
The 35-member Transportation Funding Task Force, or TF2, will spend the next 15 months identifying proposals for a potential November 2020 ballot measure to fund transportation improvements in greater Portland.
Their work won’t be easy. Any transportation measure that goes before the voters will have to thread a tight needle: Addressing voter concerns about congestion while also responding to growing awareness of the impacts of road pollution; improving commutes for everyone in the region, not just one group of road users; providing racial, cultural and geographic equity; and doing all that in a way that is fiscally acceptable to voters.
The council has asked the task force to serve as a check on the Metro Council’s objectives, outcomes and proposed metrics, and to examine what commuting routes and transportation corridors are in the greatest need of transportation improvements
It’s also asked the committee to look at accountability and oversight measures that might be in the a transportation funding measure.
The committee will be co-chaired by two county commissioners: Pam Treece of Washington County and Jessica Vega Pederson of Multnomah County. Treece most recently served as executive director of Washington County’s primary business advocacy group, the Westside Economic Alliance. Vega Pederson, a former state representative, has been the county’s lead on addressing seismic issues on Willamette River bridges built long before scientists knew of Oregon’s earthquake hazards.
Treece said her constituents are telling her that congestion on U.S. 26 and Highway 217, air quality as it relates to congestion, commute times on transit, a lack of transit and a lack of connected trails are all important issues in her district.
“The other big issue is the equity issue,” Treece said. “How can we make sure that we are equitable in our investment in relationship to transportation? When looking at this issue, I hear a lot from my constituents about making sure that we’re looking at this issue through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The task force isn’t just elected officials. It also includes representatives of advocacy groups, including Chi Nguyen, executive director of APANO.
“Transportation is often the intersection of housing, education/jobs, and recreation. It is one of the largest infrastructure investments a region can invest in,” she said. “I feel that my passion to give back to the community that's invested in me is a high priority for me.”
Metro Councilor Christine Lewis, whose district includes urban Clackamas County, said she’s eager to see the work get started.
“The work we’re doing is timely and we can’t move fast enough to do the work and involve our communities in it,” she said.
Councilor Sam Chase, who represents northern Portland on the Metro Council, said he appreciate the regional approach to addressing transportation challenges.
“There is an important public health component to this work, which is to address traffic congestion such that we are able to reduce diesel exhaust as well,” Chase said. “Diesel particulate matter is one of the most toxic pollutants we have and for those who live close to our more congested corridors, it’s particularly harmful. That’s another reason this work is so important.”
Peterson, in her sixth week as Metro Council President, campaigned for the office on 2018 on the promise of bringing the region a major transportation package.
“We are setting the culture of how this region will do transportation funding for the future,” she said. “My fundamental belief is that we don’t build projects – we build community. These people will be responsible for figuring out how to build their community out.”
She said the old way of approaching transportation in greater Portland was linked to the way the region used to grow – slowly and steadily. The recent rapid growth of the region requires a change in approaches.
“This package cannot be an incremental step,” she said. “It has to be a visionary step.”
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The committee members include:
- Michael Alexander, former Urban League director
- Hillary Barbour, Burgerville director of strategic initiatives
- Shane Bemis, Mayor of Gresham
- Jim Bernard, Clackamas County Chair
- Emerald Bogue, Port of Portland government affairs
- Steve Callaway, Mayor of Hillsboro
- Leslie Carlson, board chair, The Street Trust
- Marie Dodds, AAA Oregon
- Denny Doyle, Mayor of Beaverton
- Debra Dunn, former Oregon Truckers Association executive director
- Andrea Durbin, Oregon Environmental Council executive director
- Chloe Eudaly, Portland City Commissioner
- Lew Frederick, Oregon State Senator
- Elaine Friesen-Strang, President, Oregon AARP
- Mark Gamba, Mayor of Milwaukie
- Mary Ellen Glynn, Columbia Sportswear corporate communications director
- Sheila Greenlaw-Fink, housing advocate
- Kayse Jama, executive director of Unite Oregon
- Tim Knapp, Mayor of Wilsonville
- Nolan Lienhart, ZGF Architects
- Amanda Manjarrez, advocacy director at Latino Network
- Nate McCoy, Oregon director of National Association of Minority Contractors
- Diane McKeel, Mt. Hood Community College board
- Susan McLain, Oregon State Representative
- Marcus Mundy, director, Coalition of Communities of Color
- Chi Nguyen, executive director, APANO
- Dave Robertson, PGE government affairs
- Vivian Satterfield, Verde director of strategic partnerships
- Linda Simmons, TriMet board member
- Nate Stokes, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 701 field representative supervisor
- Pam Treece, Washington County Commissioner
- Bob Van Brocklin, Oregon Transportation Commissioner
- Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County Commissioner
- Gregg Weston, president, Clackamas County Business Alliance
- Kathryn Williams, government relations, NW Natural