Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

The highway “ox” is gored, an Oregon perspective

Here is a specimen of a grieving highway piglet whose slop ration has been cut by a sensible legislature. The Register-Guard carries a guest opinion from Rep. George Gilman of Medford who is vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee and a member of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development. Nobody from Arkansas should criticize anybody else’s politics, but TFA suspects that Gilman is completely in the bag to special interests. Or it could be that he just really really loves those nice people who build highways out of a love for mankind and don’t expect to expect billions a year.

On some initiatives, the 2007 Legislature was very aggressive on spending. We passed the ConnectOregon II project to provide $100 million in grants to nonhighway transportation projects. This funding is in addition to $100 million we approved for the ConnectOregon I program two years ago.

Much of the new transportation spending is questionable. The Legislature approved $250 million in financing to extend the light-rail system in metropolitan Portland and $20 million in financing to increase the number of streetcars within the city. We also provided $4.5 million in discretionary funds to subsidize passenger rail service.

These pork projects were stuffed into huge omnibus bills to minimize opposition. These projects may promote Oregon’s “green” reputation, but they will do nothing to reduce congestion on Oregon’s highways.

Wicked darned pork projects! Now, what do you suppose the good representative believes represents responsible spending?

 Of course, large-scale highway projects require lots of money, and the state typically must borrow in order to complete these projects. Prior to the session, Oregon might have had the borrowing capacity to significantly increase highway funding, but the Legislature chose to borrow money to finance projects such as $7 million to build a Hillsboro parking garage and $3 million to finance digital equipment for Oregon Public Broadcasting. The Legislature also determined that our highways were less important than the state agency buildings and parking lots that we’re spending millions to renovate and build.

Well, Mr. Highway Guy, just forgive the rest of us for even living.

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Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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