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Regional leaders grapple with state's climate mandate

Metro-area residents, from both liberal Portland and more conservative Clackamas County, say they’d be willing to pay more in taxes or fees to improve transportation — ranging from 83 percent to maintain the current transportation system to 57 percent to provide incentives for carpooling or alternative transportation.

Still, DHM Research principal Adam Davis said any tax increase in the Portland region would be a tough sell. Negativity toward government is at an all-time high, a March poll on the topic showed, and the public has little awareness of how government works, particularly with regard to finance.

“Explain what the basics are, what the benefits are,” Davis recommended to a group of regional elected leaders this month.You’ve got to also help them understand that you’re doing a good job spending the money you already have.”

After hearing from Davis, the leaders discussed how they wanted to tackle the state’s mandate to reduce metro-area tailpipe emissions by 20 percent over the next 20 years.

High costs were a major issue facing members of the Metro Policy Advisory Committee who listened to a Climate Smart Communities presentation April 11 at the World Forestry Center.

Metro officials showcased three potential plans.

Scenario A would keep current trends in land-use and transportation policy, require an estimated $590 million annually and expand services by 14 percent from the 2010 level.

Scenario B considers implementing adopted plans and the Regional Transportation Plan for an estimated $1.9 billion per year, which would expand services by 27 percent from 2010.

Scenario C would see a 129 percent service expansion, and its capital cost would be $9.5 billion.

Those in attendance voted for which of the six categories needed the most improvement. Compared to a high of 6.0 for technological solutions, participants voted 4.9 for increasing transit service, 4.3 for active transportation, 3.9 for incentives and 3.9 for roads, based on a seven-point scale.

A seven vote meant significant new investment, a four meant moderate new investment, and zero meant no new investment.

Technology options ranged from $113 million to $193 million in the next 35 years, by far the least expensive way to affect emissions.

“We’re all believers in technology. ITS (intelligent transportation systems), electric vehicles — the cost effectiveness is huge,” said Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas, a member of the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation that was part of the leadership summit.

“It seemed inexpensive, effective and great bang for your buck,” added Happy Valley Mayor Lori DeRemer.

Much subsequent talk focused on how to better serve low-income citizens and those living in rural areas.

“This is an opportunity for investment in corrective measures to help those who have been pushed out or disadvantaged,” said Roberta Hunte, assistant professor at Portland State University.

Steve White, health impact assessment manager for Oregon Public Health Institute, listed genetics, decision-making and the ability to make decisions as the three categories that determine health. He said Portlanders need more transportation options than cars. Currently, 60 percent of transportation infrastructure is devoted to streets and highways. An increase in the gas tax and even an adopted sales and carbon tax were thrown out as ideas for funding an increase in transportation infrastructure.

Hunte wondered if enacting such measures would hurt low-income individuals who might be forced to drive because they can’t pay for transit.

Linda Moholt, CEO of the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, said infrastructure investment will help those struggling the most.

She said she believes spending more to improve infrastructure would create jobs.

“Nothing creates equity better than a paycheck,” she said.

Specifics on a funding strategy were saved as a topic for a May 30 follow-up summit.




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