Vanishing Automobile update #39

Portland's Metro Shows How Much It Cares about Commuters

June 21, 2003

Metro, Portland's regional planning agency, predicts in its regional transportation plan that Portland-area commuters will waste more that four times as many hours sitting in traffic in 2020 as they did in 1997. No wonder: Metro's plan calls for spending nearly all of the region's transportation dollars on things other than road-capacity improvements.

On June 19, the Metro council voted to spend $54.2 million in federal funds during 2006-2007 on the following transportation improvements:

 Bike/trail projects               $1.7 million
 Boulevard improvements             4.0 million
 Green streets improvements         1.2 million
 Freight projects                   6.0 million
 Planning programs                  2.4 million
 Pedestrian improvements            3.3 million
 Road modernization                 5.3 million
 Road reconstruction                2.5 million
 Regional transportation options    3.0 million
 Transit-oriented development       4.0 million
 Transit improvements              20.8 million

How much of this funding will actually increase road capacities and relieve congestion? No more, and probably less, than $7.3 million, or less than 14 percent of the total.

This leaves "Freight" and "Road Modernization." Of the freight funding approved, $3 million is for studies and data collection, $1 million is for "town center pedestrian improvements," and $2 million is for preliminary engineering work. Only the last $2 million might be counted toward "capacity improvements," but of course it will not itself increase capacities.

The road modernization funding consists of four projects, mostly on suburban collector roads. Averaging less than $1.3 million each, these projects will do little to ease congestion in the Portland area.

Metro is squandering much of the rest of the funds on projects that will do more to increase congestion than reduce it.

All of these projects are funded out of federal gasoline taxes and other highway user fees.

So, if you are a Portlander, and someone says Metro cares about congestion, you can answer, "Yes, they care so much they want to make more of it." If you live elsewhere and someone says your city should follow Portland's example, you can say, "No, thank you, we have enough congestion already."

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