Panel sees transportation achievements, challenges

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization recently completed a tour of transportation infrastructure in the Medford area.

Our tour opened with a presentation from Julie Brown, executive director of the Rogue Valley Transportation District and an explanation from Leigh Johnson of Harry and David about the importance of dependable transportation infrastructure to the mail-order business.

Phoenix Mayor Jeff Bellah provided the narration for a windshield tour of his community, a hotbed of road construction in recent years. Transportation improvements, he said, are spurring development in the community. Committee members saw firsthand how Main Street in Phoenix has been narrowed to one lane each direction for vehicle traffic to make way for bike lanes, which Bellah referred to as a “road diet.”

Art Anderson of ODOT then narrated the ride through the recently opened “diverging diamond” interchange at Interstate 5 and Fern Valley. The interchange is designed to minimize vehicle conflict points by moving traffic to the opposite sides of the highway, which allows for unimpeded left hand turns.

Anderson then gave an overview of the realignment project for the I-5/Highway 62 area, describing several planned phases for the project. He noted that the large scale of construction has earned the project the nickname “rear-end alley.” The project, expected to be completed in three and a half years, will reduce traffic by diverting part of it through a bypass.

Our tour ended with discussion of the Highway 62 project with Mike Cord of Combined Transport. He emphasized the importance of the project from a trucking perspective, noting that the cost to operate a long-haul truck is approximately $70 per hour, meaning that reducing time stuck in congestion saves money. He also noted that reducing congestion decreases the amount of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere. He calculated that the project, once complete, will save his company approximately 75,000 miles of truck travel.

Medford was the seventh stop on our statewide tour of Oregon’s transportation infrastructure. Previously the joint committee has visited Marion County, the east Portland metro area, Ontario, Hermiston, Eugene and Bend. We have future tours and/or public hearings scheduled in Newport, Hillsboro, Salem and Albany.

On each of our stops we have seen how past investments in transportation infrastructure have helped spur development. We’ve heard from members of the public about the value of maintaining our current infrastructure. Oregonians have also expressed a desire to see the Legislature invest in Oregon’s future through new transportation infrastructure. Transportation will be a major issue in the 2017 session and what we’ve learned on our tour will play a key role in the development of a new transportation package for Oregon.

— Democrat Lee Beyer represents District 6 in the Oregon Senate, which covers Central Lane and Linn counties. Democrat Caddy McKeown represents District 9 in the Oregon House, which includes portions of Coos, Douglas, Lane and Lincoln counties on the southern Oregon coast.


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