One Oregon — broke and in climate chaos

The Governor’s handpicked panel of non-visionaries put together to dream up a “vision” that allows for business as usual issued their report. OregonPEN will have lots to say about the plan fantasies later. For now, we will just document the panel’s touching complex of beliefs that amount to “If we all close our eyes to trends (such as record-breaking droughts and temperatures, year after year), they can’t hurt us.”

Vision Panel members
Gregg Kantor, Co-Chair, NW Natural Gas, President & CEO
Tammy Baney, Co-Chair, Deschutes County Commissioner
Rep. Cliff Bentz, Oregon State Representative
Sen. Lee Beyer, Oregon State Senator
Martin Callery, Former COO, Port of Coos Bay
Larry Campbell, Former Oregon House Speaker*

Gary Cardwell, NW Container Services  
Theresa Carr, CH2M Hill
Jill Eiland, Intel
Aron Faegre, Faegre & Associates
Stuart Foster, Foster Denman, LLP
Mark Frohnmayer, Arcimoto, Inc.
Mark Gardiner, State Aviation Board
David Hauser, Eugene Chamber
Brad Hicks, Medford/Jackson Chamber
Sen. Betsy Johnson, Oregon State Senator
John Lattimer, Marion County
Roger Lee, EDCO
Rep. Caddy McKeown, Oregon State Representative
Tim McLain, Former OSP Superintendent*
John Mohlis, Oregon Building and Construction Trades Council
Michael Montero, Montero & Associates, LLC
Susan Morgan, Douglas County Commissioner
Dennis Mulvihill, Dennis Mulvihill Consulting
Jerry Norquist, Cycle Oregon
Sean O’Hollaren, Nike*
Susie Papé, The Papé Group
Steve Phillips, Phillips Candies*
Dan Pippenger, Port of Portland
Tom Potiowsky, PSU, Northwest Economic Research Center
Annette Price, Pacific Power
Craig Reeder, Hale Companies
Dave Robertson, PGE
Bruce Starr, Former Oregon State Senator
Joanne Verger, Former Oregon State Senator
Bruce Warner, TriMet
Sen. Jackie Winters, Oregon State Senator
Rollie Wisbrock, Oregon State Treasury, Retired
*Former Vision Panel members


Oregon is a state blessed with incomparable natural beauty and a strong economy prized for its agriculture commodities, forest products, and its technology goods and services. Its people are also renowned for their civic engagement and innovation in public policy. This is a place where people from all parts of the country want to live, and where Oregonians want to stay. We are here to raise families, do business, enjoy our golden years, and take part in our shared high quality of life.
We are also fortunate to have a robust multimodal transportation system. It has served us well and has been a comparative advantage for our heavily trade-dependent economy. Significant investments by past Legislatures and Congresses in both preservation and strategic multimodal capacity expansion have left Oregon with a transportation system that better moves people and goods across all modes.
But Oregon’s population is straining our heavily subscribed and ever-aging transportation system. Rapid growth could challenge our ability to remain economically competitive, hinder our ability to meet long-range greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, and make it harder to simply get to work.
Oregon is also facing a vulnerability not shared by other parts of the country. The expected Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami will cause long-lasting damage to this state if we are unable to make key upgrades to vulnerable parts of our transportation infrastructure.
But knowing all of these challenges makes our task clearer. Oregonians from all corners of the state were asked to share their priorities for improving our state’s transportation system and to shore up growing vulnerabilities. This report provides a distillation of that input and prioritized findings from the panel itself.
Oregon benefits greatly from residents who care deeply about this special place and who are willing to participate and make this state even better. While the landscapes, and even the time zones, differ in our vast state, this report finds we have much in common in relation to our transportation system — we share in our desire to make this great state better, and we understand the importance of being one Oregon.

Oregon’s Transportation: A History

Oregon’s transportation history is more than a recitation on concrete, steel, and iron. It is central to its people and what makes Oregon a special place. From anthropologist Luther Cressman’s 1938 unearthing of seventy pairs of 10,000 year-old sandals, to Bill Bowerman’s relentless pursuit of the perfect running shoe which led to an athletic empire, the movement of people and products has been key to our state’s legacy.
For generations, Oregonians have traveled by foot, canoe, and horse to fish, farm, and explore these great lands. The sternwheeler, steamship, and locomotive followed, transforming not only our landscape but the relative sense of distance between far-away families and communities. More recently, paved roads, cars, and freight trucks brought us even closer together and products from afar closer to home.
Today, we are on the precipice of technological changes in transportation that will likely radically alter our daily lives. Yet at the same time, we are rediscovering the value of older technologies — either on two wheels or steel wheels – and how they can better serve the needs of our modern day lives.

Oregonians have a longstanding passion for quality transportation. A “good roads” movement at the turn of the 20th Century helped to “Get Oregon out of the Mud” led by the Legislature and the State Highway Commission. Oregon has also welcomed innovators, like Samuel Lancaster, to design and build the region’s first paved highway through the Gorge. And Conde McCullough designed many of Oregon’s iconic bridges built with economy in mind and to “harmonize” with the state’s natural beauty.
The legacy of past investments and drive toward innovation has helped build a transportation system that has served as an inspiration across the country. It has given Oregonians much to be proud of, and is the foundation for future achievement. However, this foundation is deteriorating from age, heavy use, and lack of investment in maintenance, enhancement, and transportation options.
In order to create the system that will best serve our future needs, one that allows for the efficient movement of people and products in an environmentally responsible way, we must be cognizant of current challenges in today’s transportation system and we must be willing to act.

2050 Projected Population: 5,588,500
2030 Projected Population: 4,768,000

2010 Population: 3, 837,300
1990 Population: 2,860,375
1970 Population:    2,103,151
1950 Population: 1,521,341
1930 Population: 953,786
1910 Population: 672,765
1890 Population: 317,704
1850 Population: 12,093

The panel believes that the findings outlined in this report w a lasting and positive impact on the fabric of Oregon’s econ and security, as well as the vibrancy of our communities. We are also greatly encouraged that, from across Oregon, there is support for our shared transportation system and clear focus on the need to maintain the system we have today, address con meet seismic needs, and make appropriate investments in transit.
We also appreciate that Oregon policymakers are deeply devoted to addressing the challenging issues facing our state today. It hope this report’s findings, along with the priorities identified the regions, offer a path for immediate, mid-term, and long investments in our shared transportation system.
One Oregon 2045: A vision

In 2045, Oregon will have a transportation system that is in a state of good repair, largely resilient to major natural disasters, financially stable, and meets the needs of its people and its economy.
This system will support healthy and livable Oregon communities with improved access to safe and reliable transportation options, reducing reliance on a single mode. This multimodal transportation system will enhance mobility, whether Oregonians choose to travel by car, train, bus, boat, airplane, bicycle, or by foot
Oregon will have a safe, reliable, and efficient multimodal freight network that supports Oregon’s businesses and enhances Oregonians’ quality of life. This freight network will include a marine, aviation, rail, and roadway system that meets distinct regional needs, supports urban and rural economies, and allows Oregon’s businesses to efficiently access regional, national, and international markets.
Oregon’s transportation system will have met its greenhouse gas reduction targets through strategic investments in lower carbon transportation options, such as alternative fuel vehicles and other technology innovations that also enhance safety and efficiency.
The state’s transportation assets will be under appropriate jurisdictional control, and jurisdictions responsible for these assets will be accountable and garner a high level of public trust.

Panel Findings


Oregonians have invested billions of dollars in the transportation system we enjoy today. But we no longer raise enough revenue to maintain this system, let alone enhance capacity. Transportation maintenance challenges are particularly acute for cities and counties across Oregon. These assets are too important to the state’s economic vitality to let them deteriorate due to under-investment. The panel recommends:
Transportation system maintenance: Oregon’s top transportation investment priority must be to preserve and maintain existing transportation assets across all modes.

Congestion on Portland metro highways is impacting economic competitiveness for the entire state. At the same time, other state highways were not designed or built to adequately move today’s volumes of freight traffic. To help the movement of people and freight, structural improvements are needed on roadway pinch points. The panel recommends:
Invest in bottleneck elimination: Improve capacity and throughput of existing roadway bottlenecks on the highest priority corridors of statewide significance (I-5, I-205, etc.).
Invest in freight network alternatives: Invest in improved capacity and efficiency of rural highway corridors (Highway 97, etc.) that create freight network alternatives.
Transportation demand management strategies: Invest in transportation options and demand management strategies such as transit, rideshare, biking and walking, and employer incentives. Additionally, invest in freight enhancements (such as truck rest areas and port drop sites) that reduce roadway trucking demand during peak hours of congestion.


For many Oregonians — particularly students, seniors, and people with disabilities — transit is critical to meet their daily needs. For others, transit has become increasingly important just to get around in congested communities.

The 2013 Values & Beliefs Survey found that a majority of Oregonians support investment in public transportation. While transit is becoming more popular in urban and rural communities alike, strategies to deploy transit will likely look different across the state. The panel recommends:
Reduce gaps in transit service: Transit investments don’t always align with existing needs within communities or between communities. Future investments must aim to close both state and local gaps in service and enhance intercity transit connections to meet workforce and equity needs and help achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Maximize transit funds: Transit districts often leave federal funds “on the table” because they do not have adequate resources to provide a “local match.” New state and local investments in transit should maximize the potential for federal matching funds, as well as enhance the reliability and efficiency of transit services.
Increase flexibility of K-12 student transportation services: Redefine student transportation to ensure that communities are meeting the changing needs of students across the state. Increase flexibility and improve efficiency in how school districts are able to spend transportation revenue, such as transit district partnerships.


Walking and biking is increasingly important for Oregonians living in rural and urban communities. In the last decade alone, walking increased by 25 percent and biking doubled. But surveys have shown that more Oregonians interested in biking and walking won’t take the trip because they feel the existing infrastructure in their communities is unsafe. Oregon is also an increasingly popular destination for bicycle tourists interested in experiencing our state’s beauty. Bicycle tourism has become an important economic driver for communities from the Oregon Coast to Hells Canyon. The panel recommends:
Reduce fatalities and injuries: Oregon must continue to prioritize and invest in bold efforts to dramatically reduce crashes that disproportionately cause fatalities and injuries for people walking and biking. Programs such as Safe Routes to School and investments in sidewalks and separated facilities are essential tools to reduce roadway conflicts and protect vulnerable users. New bicycle and pedestrian investments should also aim to maximize the potential for federal matching funds.
Support economic opportunities for tourism/tours: In order to support recreational tourism, connections on bikeways, shoulders, and sidewalks should be completed to improve safety and close gaps. Consideration is also needed to educate visitors on how to best share narrow rural roadways, especially during harvest season.

Oregon is fortunate to be a heavily trade-dependent state. But many producers cannot avoid moving goods through already congested corridors, which creates delays and adds expense, and they do not have adequate alternatives on the non-roadway system. Investments in alternative freight hubs and transload facilities in less congested areas could help keep Oregon moving. The panel recommends:
Intermodal freight facilities: Identify and invest in intermodal facilities and freight connectors (e.g., transload facilities, port drop sites, inland ports, etc.) that reduce highway demand for freight.
Create a permanent ConnectOregon fund:
A permanent ConnectOregon fund for non-highway transportation assets would help the state coordinate and support strategic investments.

Develop a statewide marine plan: Integrate and better link Oregon’s ports and marine transportation system through a system plan and investment strategy. This plan could better tie the marine system with the Freight Plan and other transportation modal plans; help determine statewide funding priorities that impact the marine system (e.g., road, rail, and waterway system improvements); address marine land use issues; and help organize shipper alternatives (e.g., barging of containers along the Columbia River).

In recent years, geologists have developed a greater understanding of the risks posed to the Pacific Northwest from a Cascadia Subduction Zone event. They see a significant risk Oregon will experience a 9.0 earthquake in the next 50 years. To be prepared, Oregon must have a resilient transportation network to increase survivability, provide critical evacuation lifelines, and support long-term economic recovery. The panel recommends:
Invest in seismic resiliency: Additional resources must be secured to adequately shore up seismic resiliency. This includes consideration in future state transportation investments and ongoing advocacy at the federal level for designations and funds to support this effort.
Increase coordination with West Coast states: Strengthen coordination of planning efforts with California and Washington, and identify immediate investment needs for high priority transportation assets including I-5 and Highway 97 corridor improvements.
Non-highway inventory assessments: Seismic planning for non-highway modes (e.g., aviation, marine, rail) to date has been piecemeal and inadequate. Tools should be provided for these transportation entities to perform thorough inventories and assess seismic vulnerabilities.
Local seismic needs assessments: Many of Oregon’s local jurisdictions have not conducted assessments of transportation vulnerabilities and priorities because they do not have the necessary resources. Adequate resources should be dedicated to perform these assessments; and local transportation agencies should have the tools necessary to respond to a disaster.


As the population of Oregon has grown and cities have expanded, many of what were once rural highways now function more like city streets. At the same time, many local roads now operate as de facto highways. Transferring roadways between appropriate jurisdictions has been prohibitive mostly due to cost. However, getting the right jurisdiction to own and manage these roadways is important to better serve the traveling public and achieve development goals within communities. The panel recommends:
Enact a jurisdictional transfer program: Implement a pilot program that includes up to five priority transfers where there is broad state and community support and dedicate revenue to achieve these transfers.
Establish jurisdictional transfer working group: Create a working group that refines criteria for future transfers and streamlines the process.

We live in a time of rapid technological change that is impacting the way we get around and experience the world in real-time. Connected and automated vehicles, as well as car sharing and other new vehicle technologies, are altering the way we think about cars and car ownership. At the same time, unmanned aerial and terrestrial systems may change the way goods move from the storefront to home. Where this transformation is going isn’t entirely clear. It should not be the role of government to pick technology winners or losers. Instead, government should support an environment that fosters innovation while safeguarding the public interest. The panel recommends:
Expand innovation partnerships: Establish partnerships with companies and other states with the objective of making Oregon a key testbed for the development and deployment of innovative transportation technologies (e.g., connected and automated vehicles, electric vehicles, drones).

Appoint a transportation innovation officer: Appoint a transportation innovation officer within the Governor’s Office to drive interagency coordination in support of transportation innovation.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation system continues to be a priority for Oregonians. In addition, federal agencies are now beginning to consider establishing new performance measures for emissions on the transportation system. Implementing other panel findings, such as investments in transit, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure, and embracing alternative fuel vehicles, will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation system. The panel recommends:
Track carbon reduction impacts: To ensure policy efforts are making a difference in reducing emissions, and to prepare for potential new federal requirements, the state should consider creating an office that draws upon independent and private sector expertise to begin tracking and reporting on Oregon’s carbon reduction progress. The office should regularly report to the Governor’s Office and Legislature on progress made to meet the state’s carbon emission reduction goals.
Oregon’s roads, bridges, paths, and rail lines are all part of an integrated transportation and land use system. New investments in our transportation system must be reinforced by effective statewide land use and housing policies that do not exacerbate the congestion and mobility challenges we face as a state. The panel recommends:
Land use and transportation policy assessment: A joint effort should be made by the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Land Conservation and Development Commission to ensure that our land use and transportation policies are well aligned and meet the needs of Oregon’s growing population.

Oregon Regions

Between January and March of 2016, the Transportation Vision Panel held a series of eleven Regional Forums across the state.

These forums provided an opportunity to hear from community members about what is important for their region’s transportation connections to the rest of the state, and how the transportation system impacts local economies. The forums also helped assess the strengths and weaknesses of each region’s transportation system.
While each region has its own distinct characteristics and priorities, what surprised the panel were the number of common threads shared across Oregon’s regions. From the Oregon Coast to Hells Canyon, and from large cities to small towns, three key themes were heard consistently as major concerns affecting Oregon’s transportation system:

Seismic preparedness
Concern for the survivability from a major Cascadia Subduction Zone event is not limited to Oregon’s coastal communities. It is a powerful and real-time worry for people living east of the Cascades who are keenly aware they will be the staging ground for the recovery efforts to assist coastal  and valley communities. Today, Oregonians are asking important questions: Do we have adequate infrastructure to survive and respond to this event? Can Central and Eastern Oregon support large populations of evacuees? What are the steps we need to take today in order to be best prepared?

Congestion in the Portland metro area is having a major impact on the economic vitality of all regions. It not only creates challenges for commuters and businesses in the metro area, it is also making it difficult for producers across the state to move their goods into and through Portland in a predictable, reliable, and timely fashion.

In all eleven forum meetings, transit was identified as a top priority to get people around locally and to connect to communities across the region. Transit is seen as an essential tool to help workers, students, seniors, and people with disabilities move around. Forum participants also said transit is important to support tourist economies, attract a diverse and talented workforce and reduce carbon emissions.

Investing in Transportation

For decades, investments in transportation were grounded by the principle of ‘the user pays’ and supported by robust trust funds that both built and maintained transportation assets. In recent years, the revenue raised to support trust funds is no longer sufficient. The reasons for the shortfall vary. Even so, the need for adequate resources to maintain and improve a multimodal transportation system remains.
The panel’s approach took this into account and considered the state’s short-term and long-term needs across modes, while remaining agnostic about solutions and valuing creativity alongside stability.
Key challenges

Oregon’s transportation system is essential for the growth of Oregon’s economy, and must also be a system that is safe, sustainable, and serves the needs of local communities. The panel has identified the following key challenges for funding Oregon’s transportation system.
Deferred maintenance of the transportation system drastically increases costs: State and local transportation agencies are forced to defer routine maintenance of their roads and bridges due to revenue shortfalls. This deferral sharply increases costs as roadways fail and must undergo more costly reconstruction.
Oregon lacks many of the funding sources available to other states for transportation: Underfunding of the transportation system is not a challenge that is unique to Oregon. However, Oregon’s lack of a sales tax and limitations in its property tax system create additional constraints on options available to make robust transportation investments in roadways and transit systems.
Local governments face major transportation costs and are limited in their capacity to raise local revenue: Just like at the state level, Oregon’s cities and counties fall significantly short of the resources they need to maintain and improve local transportation systems. The lack of a sales tax and property tax restrictions have forced local governments to take creative approaches in raising transportation funding—or, as is the case in many communities, go without resources needed to meet basic needs.
Non-highway investments are limited due to constitutional restrictions on revenue and a lack of sustainable funding sources: Relatively few revenue sources are available to finance non-highway transportation needs such as rail, aviation, marine, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Existing transportation revenue sources are eroded by inflation: Revenue from the fuel tax and vehicle user fees that are the foundation of the Oregon State Highway Fund does not increase over time in the same way as property, income, or sales taxes. Episodic increases in fuel tax rates and vehicle user fees have been and will continue to be eroded by inflation.
Vehicle fuel efficiency and alternative fuels reduce revenue for trust funds: As vehicles become more fuel efficient, alternative fuel vehicles gain market share, and many Oregonians seek alternatives to driving, transportation revenue from fuel taxes will continue to shrink.
Oregon should not rely solely on federal revenue to enhance its transportation system: Today, nearly all of the state’s new construction is funded through federal dollars. While the federal government recently passed a five-year transportation reauthorization bill (FAST- ACT, P.L. 114-94) stabilizing investments to states, it failed to address the future insolvency  of the federal Highway Trust Fund.  Federal funds will always be essential to Oregon. States across the country are increasingly coming up with their own plans for raising revenue to close the gap.

A call to action

State policymakers should take immediate action to increase the investment necessary to maintain and enhance Oregon’s transportation system.
While there are a number of financing options available to fund transportation, the panel identified a set of principles that new investments should be built upon.
The panel felt that investment decisions should be made with efficiency, economy and effectiveness in mind.
Efficiency: Does the funding mechanism achieve the most from available resources?
Economy: Does the funding mechanism maximize resources at minimal cost?
Effectiveness: Does the funding mechanism achieve the desired result?
As policymakers consider options for funding transportation, it is critical that these options be effective in achieving the desired result. Investments should aim to provide adequate, sustainable, and long- term solutions, rather than temporary infusions of revenue.
Investment principles:

  • Address immediate funding crisis
  • Uphold a user-pays principle
  • Provide predictable and stable revenue
  • Make multimodal investments
  • Make long-term investments in community and economy
  • Address challenges of inflation
  • Incentivize efficient use of the system
  • Limit administrative costs and ensure capacity to deliver
  • Be responsive to fuel efficiency and the need to reduce carbon emissions
  • Improve equity

Financing transportation in Oregon: A menu of options

The panel explored a “menu of options” to finance Oregon’s transportation system built upon the transportation investment principles. This menu incorporates near- term, mid-term, and long-term options for consideration by policymakers.

In the near term, Oregon can stem the immediate transportation funding crisis by passing a transportation funding package. A number of funding options are available, including the traditional suite of user taxes and fee increases, as well as creating new fees where appropriate to ensure equitable contributions by transportation system users. Local governments can also be given greater ability to raise money for their transportation needs. Providing additional funding for non-highway modes is also critical.
In the mid term and long term, new revenue options to supplement traditional user fees should be explored to stabilize state funds and provide funding for all modes of transportation. As Oregon looks to future funding options, it should explore modifications to the state constitutional dedication that limits Oregon’s ability to invest in non-highway transportation modes.
The menu of options considered by the panel is articulated in greater detail in Appendix A