Let’s Build Some Highways

By John A. Charles, Jr. 

Oregon stopped building new highways in 1983 when I-205 was completed. Top planning officials began espousing a philosophy of spending money on rail transit rather than roads. The government also used the power of zoning to crowd more people into urban centers, in the belief that high density would lead to less reliance on cars.

The new strategy failed.

The Portland regional transit agency, TriMet, was given more than $3.6 billion to build a light rail system; yet between 1997 and 2016, TriMet’s market share of all commute trips in Portland fell from 12% to 10%. As a result, traffic congestion has become a major barrier to regional mobility.

Now a bipartisan group of legislators, led by Republican Rich Vial of Wilsonville and Democrat Brian Clem of Salem, has introduced a bill that would jump-start the highway-building process. HB 3231 would authorize cities and counties to jointly form special districts for the purpose of building and operating limited-access public highways.

If built, such highways would likely be financed through loans, with debt service paid off by tolls.

So far HB 3231 has not received a public hearing. It should. Motorists deserve all the highways they are willing to pay for. Let’s give them a chance to vote with their dollars for a better road system.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

  • Oregon Engineer

    I agree. it is the only way to fund roads. users pay. The same should be done for the “public transit” users pay full fare not the tax subsidized fare.

  • Granola girl

    With all the new housing being built in Washington county, we NEED more roads, or severely alter the main arterial streets. Gridlock everywhere!

  • Ron Swaren

    The Western Arterial highway would be a totally cost effective solution for our interstate traffic problem. I don’t think we should even consider large suburban (bypass routes) because even if they were privately tolled they would still be a lot bigger than what we need. And why would you want to go twice as far as needed anyway? I am referring to a fairly modest “interior” highway, and this would make transit more efficient, too. That way there is some synergy between modes—rather than one mode canceling out the other.https://oregoncatalyst.com/31908-western-arterial-sense.html