Oregon Gov. Brown signs historic $5.3 billion transportation package

Kate Brown (KATU News photo)

The cheers started before the ink was even dry as Governor Kate Brown signed a $5.3 billion transportation package Tuesday afternoon.

A one-tenth of one percent payroll tax will increase public transit funding across the state. The bulk of the estimated $100 million per year will go to TriMet, which serves the Portland metro region.

"I think the challenge we face is to make sure we build the infrastructure that will meet the needs of the future," Gov. Brown said. "I believe (public transit) is literally a vehicle out of poverty for our struggling families."

The bill calls for seismic upgrades to Oregon's roads and highways, with about a quarter of all highway money going towards those projects.

"This is more than just a good start, the investment in transit that we're going to see across the state as a result of the bill are truly historic," said Gerik Kransky, policy director for the sustainable transit group The Street Trust.

An estimated $450 million will be spent on a project to widen Interstate 5 near the Rose Quarter.

"We know that widening highways won't address congestion, but addressing some of our bottlenecks while fixing the flow of traffic is just a part of the compromise that lead to the overall package," Kransky said.

To fund the project, Oregonians will pay more to register their vehicles, particularly those who drive more fuel-efficient cars or electric cars.

The gas tax will go up four cents next year, and will go up a total of 10 cents by 2024.

Portland Bureau of Transportation director Leah Treat expressed her excitement over the $110 million that will go towards improvements to the outer Powell project in Southeast Portland.

"We're going to be able to take strong steps forward in our efforts to achieve equity in our transportation investments," Treat said about the improvements. "We're going to deliver long-needed sidewalks, safer crossings, modern signal and other 21st century road infrastructure. We're going to create a better place for people to bike and take transit."

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