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Opinion: Here in the Portland metropolitan region, we have a Regional Transportation Plan, and it's a big deal in the transportation world.

As the days get shorter and the holiday season approaches, it seems like there are more places to be and errands to run.

If you're like me, you spend time trying to save time by planning out your trips. There's always the calculations on how much time will it take to get to a meeting, pick up someone from the airport or grab groceries from the store. All of these destinations begin with the question of how am I getting there? On a good day, it takes 25 minutes to get to the airport from the west side. That's a really good day. Same goes for online purchases I'm waiting to be delivered both for work or for home. I personally love the convenience of online shopping, but it also ties back into the region's transportation system.

Here in the Portland metropolitan region, we have a Regional Transportation Plan, and it's a big deal in the transportation world. Our regional government, Metro, is responsible for the 25-year plan referred to as the Regional Transportation Plan, or RTP. This plan is part of a larger visionary plan called the 2040 Growth Concept created in 1995. To adapt to a changing region, the RTP is updated every four years, although, according to Metro's Kim Ellis, Metro is actually moving to a five-year cycle, since the region has been attaining our air quality goals.

The last RTP update was completed in 2014 and since then, 132 transportation projects have been built, or are funded and will be complete by 2019. This equates to more than a $3 billion in transportation investment in our region.

So why does this matter to you and to me? As you have experienced and seen, transportation is a key component of how we live. It shapes our communities and how we live every day. It shapes our personal planning — how we get to work, how we get to school, when we meet friends, or if a package arrives at our doorstep on time. Also, access to reliable transit or safe biking and walking connections is imperative to how we live. The traffic flow on our streets and highways allows us and our local products to reach our destinations on time.

A half-million new residents are expected to live in the Portland area by 2040. A history of leadership and collaboration has kept our transportation system, consisting of roads, bridges, bikeways, sidewalks, and mass transit, ahead of the national curve. For the most part, it serves us well, but if you think more can be done to make it better, you are right. Our transportation infrastructure is aging, and it has changing needs, especially in order to meet our high population growth.

Most of us are concerned about traffic congestion, safety, affordability, and reliability. At the same time, many residents — especially those of low income and communities of color — are underserved and have difficulty getting to jobs, training, and other services. Unfortunately, funding is tight, and we have multiple transportation priorities. If we don't address the challenges that face all of our residents, we will compromise our region's economic prosperity and quality of life.

So what can you do? Updating the RTP requires bold leadership, new partnerships, new voices, and thoughtful discussions. It calls for a regional conversation on the future of our transportation system and the role that investment can and should play in building healthy, equitable communities; moving our goods and people efficiently; and maintaining a strong economy. We need to embrace new technologies, including autonomous vehicles. Metro and our region needs your feedback. Get informed and join the conversation now through 2018. Metro is hosting upcoming speaker events, along with an online open house in January. You can also attend Metro Council and advisory committee meetings.

In September, Westside Economic Alliance hosted a Transportation Conference. The keynote speaker was John Porcari, the former U.S. deputy secretary of transportation. He shared many thoughts and experiences with us, but the one concept that stayed with me is how our transportation infrastructure was largely built by our grandparents and great-grandparents. It is now our responsibility to enhance, maintain, and build the transportation system of tomorrow for our children and grandchildren. After all, when it comes down to it, it's crucial for how we plan our daily lives and how the following generations will plan their daily lives. Please consider joining this important planning discussion.

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Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org

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