We are now about three months away from Metro’s referral of a regional investment in transportation in 2020 – Metro is widely expected to make that referral this May for the November 2020 ballot. This ballot measure will likely invest close to $6bn in transportation projects in our communities in the coming years. The Getting There Together Coalition has been working to ensure that each piece of this measure, from the values leading the decisions, to the projects and programs selected, is serving the communities in our region with the highest transportation needs. Below is an update from the Coalition on the recent Metro Council public hearing, and where we are on the projects included in the measure, which together with decisions about revenue sources and details around programs, will lead to a May referral.
Transportation Projects Update
The Coalition worked throughout 2019 on the specific projects included in the measure, working with our Coalition partners to identify the right kind of projects that will advance transportation equity, safety, and climate benefits, and providing values-based analysis of the corridors and projects. We worked with our 60+ Coalition members across the region and let them know when and how to show up to ensure their voices would be heard in the process; in the past year, people from all across the region wrote letters and attended more than 25 Task Force meetings, Local Improvement Team tours, and Metro Council hearings to talk about their transportation needs, what they want to see for themselves, our region, and the climate, and whether the projects would or would not serve them well. Since the original staff proposal on projects was released in fall 2019, our organizing work has helped the Coalition to secure significant wins through changes to the project list under consideration in this measure, including:
- Better safety: A 43% increase in safety project investments throughout the package.
- Better transit: A 193% increase in public transportation improvements beyond the SW Corridor light rail expansion through additional investments in East Portland on 122nd Ave and 162nd Ave, and better bus service on EVERY corridor in the package.
- Better spending: 32% fewer planning dollars and 48% more construction dollars, which means more investments coming to communities now that improve transit access, safety, affordability, and climate resilience. We also help secure a reduction in the scope of funding for the Sunrise corridor – originally proposed as a $450M highway-widening project, the current proposal includes funding for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access along Highway 212, and includes limited funding for planning only, so that Metro can help guide the project development to ensure it meets regional goals.
The projects and corridors that the Coalition has advocated for over the last few months and that are, at this point, likely to remain in the measure include:
- Significant safety investments in every county: on 82nd Ave, SE McLoughlin, and TV Highway
- Safety and transit investments across the region: Powell Blvd., Burnside, NE 181st Ave, SW 185th Ave, Central City Portland, 122nd Ave, 162nd Ave, and in the Albina Vision area
- Multimodal investments along Highway 212 in Clackamas County
Nearly 100 people showed up to a public hearing at Metro on January 13; of those who testified, many Coalition members and our allies spoke in solidarity with Getting There Together Coalition (thank you!), and overall, people were in support of the Coalition’s priorities as represented in the package. At this point, the Coalition recognizes that the package, while improved on key outcomes such as safety and transit investments, could and should still go further to provide options that are affordable, safe, and reduce climate emissions, especially for people with low-incomes and communities of color. We continue to raise concerns about Sunrise Corridor right-of-way acquisition; whether the proposed Airport Way project is the right one to boost transit and help working class people; and whether the C2C Connector would be truly transit-ready and provide safe and convenient transportation options to people living along that corridor.
The day after the January public hearing, Metro Councilors held a meeting where they discussed which projects to move forward, and asked staff to dig deeper on all of the project elements we had raised concerns about; stay tuned for updates as further analysis comes back on projects in early spring, and we will continue to push for a package with the best outcomes for people in the region on transportation equity, safety, affordability, and climate emissions reductions.