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Officials, Transport Groups
Ready to Move on ConnectOregon

by Staff
Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR), August 1, 2005

A little more than a week after Gov. Ted Kulongoski's multimodal transportation initiative, dubbed ConnectOregon, finally passed through the Oregon House of Representatives, state transportation officials are preparing to implement the program.

We will move as quickly as possible, said Patrick Cooney, communications director for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

After the governor signs the bill into law, Cooney said, ODOT officials will begin establishing rules for applying for loans and grants under the program and will make sure that all of the processes are in place.

A lot of coordination needs to take place, Cooney said.

By spring or late summer of 2006, Cooney said, the project selection process will most likely begin for the transportation infrastructure investment program, which will spend about $100 million in lottery-backed bonds to pay for freight mobility and transportation improvements to connect the state's port districts, rail lines and airport facilities.

We can't use our highway funds on these other modes, and they have been needing investment for quite some time, Cooney said. Products don't just get delivered by trucks.

Cooney said having funds to invest in the modes of transportation addressed in the ConnectOregon package will be beneficial to the transportation infrastructure of the entire state.

All modes have individual roles in the whole system, Cooney said. Every Oregonian will benefit from these investments. - ConnectOregon will make the entire system better.

In the Portland area, the Port of Portland, with its rail, marine and airport connections, is expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of the ConnectOregon package.

Pat Egan, state affairs manager for the port, said that once the program is in place, the port will begin to look for funding opportunities.

We'll be looking for the right projects at the right time, Egan said. The bottom line is we will be seeking ConnectOregon funds.

Despite the benefits that are expected to be reaped by the port from the ConnectOregon package, Egan said, he sees the funding package as just a starting point.

When you look at what Washington and California have done, we still have a long way to go, Egan said.

Egan pointed out that Washington's Legislature recently approved a $700 million rail funding package that will be spent over the next 10 years and that California is just finishing up a nearly $1 billion rail funding package that began in 1994.

When you look north, hundreds of millions of dollars are about to be spent, and when you look south, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent, Egan said. We're the hole in the doughnut. We need to start filling that hole.

Currently, Oregon's multimodal, or non-highway, transportation infrastructure includes 2,413 miles of railroad tracks, 23 ports and nearly 100 airports.

Transportation doesn't just mean highway funding, Egan said. Having transportation efficiencies in all the modes is increasingly important. - In the long term, we need to keep pace with other states.

Before any action can be taken on the ConnectOregon multimodal program by state transportation agencies, however, the governor still needs to sign it into law.

The bill should be signed in the next couple of weeks, Chris Warner, the governor's legislative director, said.

We'll definitely be signing it as soon as we can, Warner said.

Officials, Transport Groups Ready to Move on ConnectOregon
Daily Journal of Commerce (Portland, OR), August 1, 2005

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