Oregon Senate passes CRC bill 18-11

Oregon Senate passes CRC bill 18-11

Sen. Chip Shields, who represents
north and northeast Portland, was one
of 18 yes votes.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Senate passed HB 2800 (the CRC bill) today by a vote of 18-11. The vote comes just a week after the House passed it 45-11. The bill will now be signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber.

The bill was carried by Senators Lee Beyer and Bruce Starr, both of whom spoke at length about the project’s benefits and urgency.

Beyer said “the time has come” before rattling of a list of conditions in the bill that must be fulfilled before Oregon can sell $450 million in bonds. One of the questions he offered an answer to was whether or not the $27 million per year bond repayments will impact other transportation projects. That has been a key concern from opponents of the project and has not been clearly answered by ODOT and CRC staff. Beyer said on the Senate floor today that the answer is “To be frank, no and yes.” He said since the project wouldn’t begin construction until 2014, no other priorities would be impacted until then. “On the other hand,” he continued, “the [Oregon] Transportation Commission and the his legislature is always in a position of having to prioritize projects since there’s never enough money. In transportation funding, there’s a sense of everyone taking its turn. And at this point, because of its impact on the entire state economy, the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project is on the top of the list.”

The Senator who spoke most eloquently in opposition to this bill was Portland Democrat Sen. Jackie Dingfelder. She was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. Sen. Dingfelder mentioned many serious concerns she’s heard from constituents that she does not feel are addressed in the bill.

“I am concerned about the impact of diverted I-5 traffic on my district and neighborhoods. The communication from my constituents on this issue and their overwhelming concern about the project is hard for me to ignore because the concerns remain unaddressed.”

Sen. Dingfelder added that she’s “skeptical of modeling results” that show minimal impacts on surrounding streets and said, “I believe this traffic diversion will have a significant impact on my district unless we address the I-205 diversion issue.”

Dingfelder said the bill should have included a mitigation fund to deal with impacts the project will result in for surrounding neighborhoods. She also said she’s worried about long-term funding to pay back Oregon’s investment in the CRC. “Oregon is already facing serious transportation funding challenges,” she said, “and we have no assurances about the impact this project will have on ODOT’s ability to address safety and infrastructure problems on other state-owned highways.”

“SE 82nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard, already badly need improvements that ODOT claims they can’t afford.”

Senator Starr, in his closing remarks, called the bill a compromise between the “unique political culture in Portland” and the different culture that exists in Clark County and Vancouver. “In order to bring those cultures together, you compromise by combining light rail with a lot of lanes and a lot of capacity.”

Another no vote that surprised many observers came from Sen. Chip Shields a Democrat who represents north and northeast Portland.

Now all eyes turn to the state of Washington. They must make a financial commitment and guarantee light rail’s inclusion in it before anything moves forward.

Below are the complete vote results:

YES
L. Beyer D Springfield 6
G. Burdick D Portland 18
P. Courtney D Salem 11
R. Devlin D Tualatin 19
C. Edwards D Eugene 7
B. Hansell R Pendleton 29
M. Hass D Beaverton 14
B. Johnson D Scappoose 16
T. Knopp R Bend 27
L. Monnes Anderson D Gresham 25
R. Monroe D Portland 24
F. Prozanski D Eugene 4
A. Roblan D North Bend 5
D. Rosenbaum D Portland 21
C. Shields D Portland 22
B. Starr R Hillsboro 15
E. Steiner Hayward D Beaverton 17
J. Winters R Salem 10

NO

H. Baertschiger R Central Point 2
B. Boquist R Dallas 12
B. Close R Albany 8
J. Dingfelder D Portland 23
T. Ferrioli R John Day 30
L. George R Sherwood 13
F. Girod R Stayton 9
J. Kruse R Roseburg 1
A. Olsen R Canby 20
C. Thomsen R Welches 26
D. Whitsett R Klamath Falls 28

NOT VOTING 1

A. Bates D Ashland 3

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