State regulators voted unanimously Thursday to approve the Portland region's strategy to reduce tailpipe emissions.
The plan, a response to a mandate from the Oregon Legislature, foresees a 29 percent cut to the Portland region's tailpipe emissions in the next 20 years. The Metro Council approved the strategy in December.
It was up to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission to determine whether Metro's strategy was adequate. In their meeting in Salem on Thursday, commissioners lauded Metro's efforts to meet the state's emissions goals.
"I think it's really a model for the rest of the state and maybe the rest of the nation," said Jerry Lidz, a member of the Land Conservation and Development Commission from Eugene. "I really think this has been a great lesson both on the technical side of what you can do and on the good government side of what government can accomplish."
Most of the emissions reduction strategy is based on the plans cities and counties around the region already have on the books. The challenge, going forward, is finding the money to implement those plans.
"One of the big political challenges is to find the resources for transportation and to persuade the public that they will benefit," said Greg Macpherson, an LCDC commissioner from Lake Oswego. "There are benefits to be gained but it's just convincing people to step up to the transportation investments."
Of the dozens of governments in the Metro region, only the Clackamas County Commission opposed the strategy. Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen, who attended Thursday's meeting, said Metro created a fair amount of goodwill and understanding as it developed its "Climate Smart" strategies.
"We can build on that and use that as we move forward through a public process and public engagement showing what the benefits are here," Dirksen said. "The secret is showing how everyone benefits from it. It's not just the upfront or obvious benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the other benefits too."
Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette said the work has helped to spark a change in the way leaders talk about transportation in the Portland region.
"For the first time in my experience at Metro people are seriously talking about a potential regional funding sources for transportation," Collette said. "That's year's off , but there's a conversation about it."
Kim Ellis, Metro's project manager on the Climate Smart work, said it will feed into the next update of the region's federally-mandated comprehensive transportation plan.
One key element of the next Regional Transportation Plan update will be a regional transit plan, to coordinate work from TriMet and SMART, as well as locally-based transit agencies like GroveLink in Forest Grove.
"What the transit plan will do is build on the Regional High Capacity Transit Plan adopted in 2010 to incorporate bus and other service improvements identified through TriMet's more recent Future of Transit work. SMART is also updating their master plan for transit service within their area in the coming year." Ellis said. "We'll be working with both transit agencies, community-based transit providers and other partners to define a coordinated vision for transit in the region – and a strategy for how we achieve that vision."
The 2018 RTP update will also include its regular review of regional plans for safety, freight and transportation system management, as well as funding strategies.
That discussion is expected to wrap up by 2018.
Craig Beebe contributed to this story.