Oregon Legislature approves large transportation bill
July 8, 2021
In the final days before the Oregon statehouse wrapped up work for the year, legislators approved an omnibus transportation package that includes benefits for major road projects covered in a 2017 transportation funding bill.
Four years ago, Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a 10-year, $5.3 billion transportation bill to benefit major highway expansion and improvements to mass transit via taxes and fees, including tolls.
A 4-cent increase in the state’s 30-cent fuel tax rate took effect Jan. 1, 2018. Additionally, 2-cent increases were included to follow every two years through 2024. At that time, the gas tax rate will reach 40 cents.
For professional drivers, proportionate increases were applied to the weight-mile tax, trip permits, and variance permits.
Fuel-efficient vehicles also have higher fees to help compensate for generating less fuel-tax revenue.
The Oregon Senate voted in the final week of the regular session to sign off on House revisions to a bill, HB3055, to give the state flexibility in funding major projects outlined in the 4-year-old law. The legislation awaits the governor’s signature.
Major transportation initiatives that would benefit from additional funding include plans to replace and seismically retrofit the Boone Bridge on Interstate 5 in Wilsonville, the expansion of I-5 near the Rose Quarter, and improvements along a 7-mile stretch of I-205 between Stafford Road and state Route 213.
The projects would receive $30 million annually.
The 4-year-old law, “Keep Oregon Moving,” also would authorize the Oregon Department of Transportation to charge tolls on I-205 in the Portland area.
HB3055 would allow the state to continue working on a toll program. Toll collection would be limited. Specifically, the state DOT could only collect tolls to cover costs to add lanes along I-205.
Oregon’s state treasurer also would be authorized to issue tollway project revenue bonds to finance tollway projects.
The state’s short-term borrowing authority would be increased from $100 million to $600 million. The maximum maturity of short-term obligations would be extended from three to five years.
A separate provision in the bill covers use of traction tires or chains.
Failure to adhere to the rule could result in a fine of $880 – up from about $160.
Another provision would amend provisions related to motor carrier mandatory training for drivers domiciled in Oregon and who receive a certificate or permit from the state DOT.
A minimum of eight hours of classroom instruction would be required. ODOT would appoint agents to carry out instruction either in person or online. The maximum allowable fee for training would increase from $60 to $200.
Additionally, ODOT would be allowed to charge interest on any overdue taxes or fees from the collection of the weight-mile tax.
Local speed limits
The bill also would authorize ODOT to delegate to cities, Multnomah and Clackamas counties the authority to set speed limits on roads under their jurisdiction. Speeds must be set under criteria adopted by the highway agency. LL
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