The traffic in Oregon is so bad that it has made national headlines. Here in Medford, nearly 300 miles away from Portland’s congestion, bridge closures and potholes mean that goods grown and manufactured in the Rogue Valley can’t make it to market as quickly, which could make it harder for working people in our region to find work.
It’s a statewide problem that requires a comprehensive and innovative solution, and that’s exactly what Gov. Kate Brown did in this past legislative session.
Through a rare act of political leadership and bipartisan collaboration, state lawmakers passed a bold transportation package to modernize our state’s infrastructure. My hat is off to Governor Brown for stepping up to lead the charge and find a solution to not just fix the transportation problems in Portland, but to find ways to make improvements and repairs across the entire state while putting thousands of people to work.
As lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in both chambers of our Legislature can tell you, our governor and her administration were 100 percent relentless in their effort to make a multimodal transportation package happen during the 2017 session. Starting with the year-long Transportation Visioning Panel to town halls across the state, and finally to the inner workings of Salem by making sure the Legislature was on board, Governor Brown made sure nothing stood in the way of this historic investment in our roads, bridges and public transit.
One of the most impressive components of Brown’s plan is the amount of people who will be employed across the state, in both urban and rural communities. The plan preserves and improves our transportation system while creating family-wage jobs across Oregon. An estimated 16,000 jobs will be created: men and women in hard hats performing the on-the-ground construction work along with engineers, planners and administrative assistants who are all going to be working to improve our state and make traveling in Oregon smoother for us all.
The planned projects are all-encompassing, because roads, bridges and public transit will be woven together across the state. This multimodal plan laid out over the next 10 years is done through the investment of $5.3 billion in our state’s transportation system. It expands freeways in those places where the traffic is worst. It also expands our state’s public transit in both urban and rural communities — so folks can get to medical care if they don’t own a car, students can get to school in any kind of weather, and people in congested cities have a way to get to work without sitting in their cars.
The plan makes bridges safer, too. In the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, our aging bridges could topple, but this plan helps fortify them to keep communities safe. For example, our area is slated to see a seismic triage project.
Here in Oregon, under the strong and steady leadership of Governor Brown, our business and labor leaders worked together. Republicans and Democrats worked together. In a national climate of political divisiveness, we’re showing the country that we can tackle big challenges. We can sit down together, set aside differences and put Oregon first by making sure our roads, bridges and public transportation reflect the growing needs of our state. As one of the thousands who will be working on these projects, I’m proud of what my governor has done.
— Gary Jackson is business representative for Laborers Local 737 in Central Point.