Is the Governor Serious About Transportation?

The legislature is going big on transportation infrastructure improvements, hopefully before it goes home. The Joint Committee On Transportation Preservation and Modernization has released the broad outline of a ten-year plan to relieve congestion across the Beaver State, which is now no longer just a Portland Metro problem.

This package of around $8 billion in spending on many needed projects, like the widening of HW 217, is an ambitious effort by the chairs and ranking members of both chambers’ transportation committees: Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas and Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, but can Oregon’s executive branch execute on this level? Secretary of State Dennis Richardson campaigned on the risks that the Oregon Department of Transportation cannot. An audit of our key transportation agency by his office found that ODOT does not proactively deal with unbalanced bid items, hazarding greater exposure to post-bid cost overruns than necessary.

It’s not clear Governor Brown shares the same concern. I don’t recall her making this the major campaign issue it deserved to be, but last September she did quietly direct the Department of Administrative Services to contract with McKinsey & Co., at a cost of $1 million, to study the problem. If she didn’t know how to handle it herself, I suppose studying the problem made sense for her last fall.

But her response to the study’s results, released more than two months ago, is puzzling. Strangely unable to immediately implement the recommendations of this expensive study, the Governor didn’t deploy her own staff to tackle this serious obstacle to effective transportation policy in our state. Instead, she asked DAS to study the study. The results of this second-hand study were officially made public the first week of April. It recommended more studies, with timelines stretching out through 2018.

The McKinsey & Co. report echoed the Secretary of State’s audit, finding troubling procurement practices and leadership problems, but Governor Brown seems satisfied with a March 1, 2018 deadline to establish “role clarity in the ODOT procurement department.” This prompted Oregon Republican Party Chair Bill Currier to remark: “These basics of good governance should not have to wait yet another year. Oregon’s transportation policy problems are real and have been mounting for decades. Given the amount of potholes on the I-5 between Portland and Salem, we’d think there would be a sense of crisis in our state’s capital.”

This does not seem to be a partisan issue. Democrats in the legislature have a sense of urgency and bite their tounges in bipartisan frustration that our Governor does not appear to share it.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change.

  • Bob Clark

    Oregon is a slow motion Illinois type wreck in development, even as the economy revs along although maybe fueled by Obama entitlement federal largess shoveled to the progressive state.
    The Oregon Department of Energy – a total dismal failure what with BETC (the billion dollar Business Energy Tax Credit debacle); and yet what does the legislative review of this Department recommend? That’s right, ODOE needs to be expanded and more staff hired.
    The same here with ODOT.
    Then you’ve got a bill in the state legislature to make it compulsory for state government employees to be unionized, putting a knife into any thoughts of right-to-work.
    Then you’ve got the idealists pressing to keep PGE from building a new natural gas power plant to back up highly subsidized wind and solar projects which do not produce power reliably.
    You hope for a doze of realism so we don’t end up freezing in the next winter like this last one when solar panels are snowed over and iced over; not producing anything during the most critical time for electricity.
    It’s getting to the point you have to start thinking like a survivalist in Oregon, because the unicorn people are running the state – a state whose public education system with a very captured student body greenwashes the brains of electorate.
    Maybe I’ll stock up on coal to burn in my fireplace when the lights and furnace go out because an over reliance on idealism. That’s how absurd our current governance at local and state levels.

    • Anny Smile

      It’s a serious problem… If you a tired of struggling against such situations, just try to relax and buy a medical marijuana card online even from Oregon

  • ecec55

    Oregon has not built and new road in 25 years. I-205. The population has doubled. I’m amazed that Intel and Nike are still sticking around. SR-217 is a mess. I-84 from I-205 to Portland is gridlock anytime of the day!! Sr-26 is a parking lot. So what do they do to fix this? They build a Choo-Choo at $235,000,000 A MILE!!!!!!! Which does absolutely nothing to address the problem! Portland closes lanes on Naito Parkway for The spandex Mafia and walkers. Portland itself is one of the worst cities to drive in. The lights are not synchronized , so when you try to make a turn the “Walk” signal also turns on so the pedestrians walk and no one get to turn short of running a red-light. The bottom line is Oregon don’t really want to address the problem. They will use their social engineering to make it so miserable to drive an auto that they will increase the ridership of the Max and say “See a lot of people are using Mass transit so it must be a great idea. I guess it is if you want to take 2 hours to get from Gateway to Hillsboro….. one way.

  • 受教了!呵呵!

  • IhateLiberals

    What is so pathetic is nearby states like Nevada and Arizona are building freeways or improving existing roads; while no roads are built at all in Oregon.
    Right now future Interstate 11 from Las Vegas to Phoenix already has 60+% of the two or three lanes in each direction already completed. I’m betting that it will be done before Oregon does anything to improve I-5.